Seasickness and Being (in love) (world premiere, LA Phil commission)
According to the composer, the title Seasickness and Being (in love) points to the destability of the self and modes of experience. It opens with a violent spasm of sonic motion sickness, five crucial notes (the semi-tones of a major third, A to C-sharp) hammered in multiple octaves. Silence follows, then at the edge of inaudibility, a chord begins a lurching march at metrically irregular intervals, soon forcefully overridden by the pianos, one a fuzzy detuned shadow.
Despite the simplicity of the basic materials, their elaboration is kaleidoscopic, exploding outwards in many guises, all implied – harmonically and linearly – by the opening. Rhythm is the propellant as the ascending lines eventually reach escape velocity and the music orbits at a new level of magnification. The expanding and contracting rhythms and textures function like a zoom lens for both time and space, from the tick of a watch to an almost geological progression, from life as a person to life as a planet, with the listener tossed back and forth between specific levels of human experience.
Time spreads out about two-thirds of the way through, in ultra-soft, slow chords and motivic fragments. The aspirational thrust of the upward lines is undeniable, however, and the gentle chordal swellings gradually become more vigorous. Stasis gives way to the return of time, as the keyboards and mallet instruments rewind in a rhythmic groove and the piece fades, without slowing, into a distant new level of being.
— John Henken