|KENNY WERNER: NO BEGINNING, NO END
Throughout history, great tragedy has often been the source for great art.
This is certainly true of Kenny Werner's No Beginning No End, a work that began
as a commission for the MIT Wind Ensemble, but changed in scope and nature after
October 7, 2007, when his daughter was killed in a car accident.
During his period of grief, the deadline began to approach for delivering the
commission, but he paid no attention. Werner, ever conscious of his spiritual
practice, was inspired to write a poem that became the lyric for this
five-movement work, and enabled him to not only conceive the entire piece but
finish it in time for its debut -- which he admits in his heartfelt liner essay
The score was radically revised in 2009 and included sections for brass,
strings, and percussion. It was recorded by a 37-piece ensemble and his piano.
Vocalist Judi Silvano and saxophonist Joe Lovano overdubbed their parts onto the
finished work. The poem that serves the root of this piece is gorgeously
delivered, one note per word by Silvano. That note becomes the root on which the
ensemble plays Werner's composition, and for Lovano's and Werner's
improvisations. Elements of classical music -- Western and Indian -- dialogue
seamlessly with jazz and structured improvisation for nearly 50 minutes,
creating a work of transcendent spiritual beauty. It ends not with a conclusion,
but an introduction to something beyond the confines of the work itself. In
addition to "No Beginning No End" (comprised of five separate titles), there are
three other pieces written related to it: "Visitation: Waves of Unborn" is a
wordless a cappella for a 36-member choir that deals harmonically with the idea
of music not as a noun but as a presence created by the souls dwelling between
death and rebirth in the bardo. "Cry Out" was written as a simple, direct, and
deeply emotive piece for a string quartet. Less than seven minutes in length, it
is nonetheless one of the most memorable works Werner has ever composed.