Blue of the Distance
for two sopranos, piano, and bowed piano strings
Duration: ~15 minutes
Commissioned by: Women on the Verge
(Elizabeth McDonald, soprano; Emily Martin, soprano; Kathryn Tremills, piano).
With support from the Canada Council for the Arts
“The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost.”
- Rebecca Solnit
"What we hide and what is hidden from us is concealed, secreted from view. I am drawn to the hidden narrative of women’s history; and overshadowed or concealed stories of women in present day. I am interested in alluding conventions within my art form, which commonly avoid depicting the experiences of women; or portray women in a negative light.
Blue of the Distance explores themes of migration, displacement, and the experience of women caught in this turmoil. To create the text for this work, I began by collecting 142 recent news articles describing events of displacement. In particular, I focused on news coverage describing the Syrian refugee crisis. I found and collected repeatedly and commonly found words in these texts, particularly seeking out words and phrases that were frequently used to depict women in these stories. I then mapped these “found” words onto an essay by Rebecca Solnit, Blue of the Distance. Using erasure techniques on her text, I used this as a shell to organize these found words to create both the text and a structure for this composition.
Syrian refugees are citizens and permanent residents of Syrian Arab Republic, who have fled from their country since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. They have sought asylum in other parts of the world. In 2016, the United Nations identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance. Six million are internally displaced within Syria, and around five million are refugees outside of Syria.
I do not wish, nor am I qualified, to speak on behalf of women who have experienced difficult situations of displacement, but I do wish to bring attention to the topic and how women are portrayed, through the framing words that are frequently used in news articles."
Emilie Cecilia LeBel (2017)