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such a pure force

2002 ~ for computer processed audio, spoken word, and a poem by Pablo Neruda

I don’t know if it exists, maybe it’s a dream


such a pure force began life as a commission from the Kennedy Center in 2002 for a dance work. The audio is composed of sampled percussion sounds, breaths, 5 string electric violin and passages from artists expressing their thoughts on the transfixing emotions surrounding the last moments of life.


Ultimately, the composition is about the force and inspiring power of life at its final moments. How that force manifests itself in each of our lives, and how we use words to convey it, is the compelling issue of the piece.


It is similar to the force Dylan Thomas writes of in these lines:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood;


The artists describe that moment when you or someone you know is about to die, expressed by one as being “five minutes from living,” and what transpires in those last moments between two people.


The composition concludes with a poem by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda describing a life force, one that does not expire at death, one Neruda depicts as “tanta fuerza pura.” Neruda reveals what traces are left after someone dies and their spirit that is transferred into the one they love who must survive between shadow and space, without suffering.


The composition passes through several emotional states of the artists, portrayed sonically through computer transformations of spoken word and sound. Anger, confusion, denial, grief and acceptance all make appearances before we enter the desolate landscape of a dream state signified by the persistent tolling of a transformed piano layered beneath poem XCIV from Neruda’s Cien Sonetos De Amor.


Special thanks to Sylvia Zwi for her passionate reading of the Neruda poem in both Spanish and English. Scott Sedar also read the poem in English. The percussion samples were performed by Tom Teasley.

Si muero sobrevíveme con tanta fuerza pura ~ Pablo Neruda




   Si muero sobrevíveme con tanta fuerza pura

que despiertes la furia del pálido y del frío,

de sur a sur levanta tus ojos indelebles,

de sol a sol que suene tu boca de guitarra.


No quiero que vacilen tu risa ni tus pasos,

no quiero que se muera mi herencia de alegría,

no llames a mi pecho, estoy ausente.

Vive en mi ausencia como en una casa.


Es una casa tan grande la ausencia

que pasarás en ella a través de los muros

y colgarás los cuadros en el aire.


Es una casa tan transparente la ausencia

que yo sin vida te veré vivir

y si sufres, mi amor, me moriré otra vez.


Pablo Neruda

Cien Sonetos De Amor/100 Love Sonnets

Translated by Stephen Tapscott

reprinted by permission of the Neruda Foundation

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