The impetus for this piece is a a contemplation of the term “shenpa”, a Tibetan word meaning “attachment”. Pema Chödrön, who has written extensively about Tibetan Buddhism, describes shenpa as “the urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down.” When we have closed down in reaction to facing obstacles great or small, Chödrön notes that we can feel a sort of “tightness” which “has the power to hook us into self-denigration, blame, anger, jealousy and other emotions which lead to words and actions that end up poisoning us. In shenpa for bass clarinet and marimba (written for the fantastic due Transient Canvas), this tightness is reflected at the beginning of the piece with repeated gestures that consist of very limited pitch material. Over time, both instrumentalists break out of the confines of those musical limitations in an effort to transcend a state of shenpa and move toward a state of openness.
- Michelle McQuade Dewhirst
Michelle McQuade Dewhirst received a Bachelor's degree in music education and horn performance from Ithaca College and completed her master's and doctoral degrees in music composition at the University of Chicago. As an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she teaches courses in music theory, music history, composition, horn and popular music. Her music has been performed at numerous festivals and conferences, including a residency as an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center of the Arts and performances by such ensembles as the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Pacifica String Quartet, eighth blackbird and the New York Miniaturist Ensemble, as well as internationally acclaimed performers Michael Hall (viola) and Joby Burgess (percussion). She is a founding member of a very small consortium, an ensemble dedicated to the performance of “miniatures” that last one minute or less or that consist of one hundred or fewer notes.
An active performer, Michelle performed a solo “15 Minutes of Fame” recital on the Composer’s Voice concert series in New York in March of 2012. She is an active freelancer and recitalist and even dabbles in jazz improvisation with the band Gypsy Trip.