as I learn to breathe (2017)
*Written for and premiered by Madeleine Wething
Nighttime anxiety is a very visceral demon of mine. It’s difficult to articulate how it feels to be calming down after a long day, getting into a headspace that can drift off to sleep, only to be betrayed by my body. The symptoms – breathing that shallows inexplicably, a rapid increase in heart rate, a sudden roaring in the ears, and a spasmodic tightness in the chest and throat – are insistent, unsettling, and can keep me awake for hours; yet, they often don’t have a clear trigger.
as I learn to breathe is about the personal journey I take as I use breathing techniques to wrestle with my nighttime anxiety. The ebb and flow of the violin, as it follows a changing landscape of technique, register, and rhythmic density, mirrors the ebb and flow of my symptoms and thoughts. Some gestures spiral the way anxiety spirals out of control, while others fixate on a certain set of pitches, unable to move forward – and yet others weave through melodic lines to find a momentary respite. Ultimately, the piece ends on a sort of weary calm, akin to the one that allows for sleep – but only out of exhaustion, since anxiety never truly rests.