Music from the Suitcase, nearly three years ago, I immediately started thinking about a direction for my next project. This process was not simple and took many months. While Suitcase explored a collection of Russian miniatures my family brought out of the Soviet Union in the family luggage when I was five, I knew I wanted to pursue a completely different artistic direction.After I released my last album,
I "tried on" various concepts, including albums of specific regions, periods, and composer compilations, but nothing seemed to stick in my mind. One random day, I remembered a t-shirt I had seen as a kid in camp. On it, was printed the famous quote by Hans Christian Andersen, "Where words fail, music speaks." Even at the time, I recall being surprised that a literary author, whose bread and butter came from crafting words together, would be willing to go on record with such a statement. Being the first time I had seen or read that quote, I recall feeling a sense of vindication for my choosing to be a musician!
I suppose this little jolt of memory and inspiration forced me to go back to the basics, as it were, and examine why it is that 15 years later I still dedicate my life to music on a daily basis. For me, there have been so many times where words have failed my innermost thoughts and emotions—I know they are somewhere inside me, but I am simply unable to express these emotions through words properly. The best way I can verbalize this feeling would be to say it’s almost as though someone knocks the words out of you. Music on the other hand, is able to express these thoughts perfectly when all else fails. Music has a seemingly magical ability to tap into this mysterious place where our deepest thoughts lie.
After running across a letter Felix Mendelssohn wrote to his friend about his "Songs Without Words," I knew immediately that I had a concept for my next record. In his letter, Mendelssohn says about his songs: "The thoughts expressed to me by the music I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite." It occurred me that Mendelssohn, much like myself, and Hans Christian Andersen before, was struggling with the times in life when words are far inadequate for the thoughts we must express.
My new album, Words Fail, is an attempt to give voice to this mysterious feeling we all share. To expand upon Mendelssohn’s original attempts to do this in his "Songs Without Words," I compiled a set of pieces by a variety of composers to examine the concept of ‘wordless song’ in depth. It was also very important for me to tie this idea into the living, breathing, immediacy of everyday life. And to do this, I commissioned two of my favorite living composers—Michael Gandolfi and Timo Andres—to have their perspectives and sound-worlds upon which we might reflect. I am thrilled to be able to present these two commissions on this album for the first time.
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