In the summer of 2015, my family moved across the country from New York to Los Angeles. I had two young children, ages 4 and 10 months, I had never been to LA before, and I barely knew a soul. Three days after we arrived, my husband kissed me goodbye and left for his new job. I was alone with the kids in a strange new town, and I had never felt more overwhelmed or disoriented.
During those early months in LA, I found myself drawn to the piano, craving familiarity and comfort. Before leaving New York, I had primarily been performing as a jazz singer, and had drifted away from my classical piano roots. Now, all I wanted was to get lost in the music from my conservatory days. One of the books I gravitated towards was the Complete Lyric Pieces by Edvard Grieg, a collection of 66 piano pieces written over the span of 58 years by the Norwegian composer. I came upon a piece called “Homesickness” and was instantly captivated. It was haunting, somber, reflective, and seemed to perfectly encapsulate every emotion I was experiencing. Within two days I had written lyrics.
As I began to explore these pieces, I immediately knew that I wanted to approach the music in an entirely new way. I wanted to delve deep into the emotional world of each piece, and in order to do that, I didn’t want any rules. I allowed myself the freedom to use my voice - wordlessly and with text. To play with tempo and form - to cut parts of a piece and repeat others. I wrote lyrics for counterlines, and created new melodies based on harmonic movement. I gave myself space to improvise, and began experimenting with a vocal looper, recording layers of sound in real-time and allowing myself to get lost in the sonority of what was being created. I didn’t yet know what these pieces would become, but once I had written about 5 of them, they began to take shape as a fluid cycle.
Grieg lived from 1843-1907 in a world that couldn’t possibly seem farther away, but his emotional life is timeless. He left home at a very young age and experienced intense loneliness and homesickness, he was deeply in love with his first cousin, he tragically lost his only child at the age of 2, and he yearned to find his place, his unique voice as an artist. These very human experiences are what connect us all, and these are the experiences that pour through his music, that broke through the barriers of time and place and spoke to me. I begin and end my cycle of Lyric Pieces with the same two pieces as Grieg. The stories that are told in between are entirely my own, and are a reflection of my experiences as a mother, a wife and an artist finding her place.