Breathing Light by Gala Flagello
From Mathew Pimental
University Philharmonia Orchestra
An Evening of World Premieres
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 Hill Auditorium
Breathing Light (2021) is inspired by the Peabody Essex Museum’s “Breath” exhibition by artist Zarah Hussain. Both this piece and “Breath” reflect on the significance of breathing in 2020 and 2021, from loss of breath due to COVID-19 to protecting one’s breath via the Black Lives Matter movement to learning to breathe mindfully in order to endure catastrophic events. In an interview with PEM, Hussain described the five-second breath as “the perfect breath.” Breathing in for five seconds and out for five seconds reinvigorates us, gives us the oxygen we need, and helps connect our mind and body. The artist remarked, “I see things mathematically, and so for me, these paintings were a visual interpretation of what it would look like to breathe in and breathe out.”
Breathing Light evokes this same translation, but to music. The piece opens by grounding the ensemble in the five-second breath, a series of five chords at 60 BPM (the tempo of seconds). Throughout the work, the orchestra navigates moments when their perfect breath is thrown off-course; they start “breathing light” (shallow breathing). Conversely, the title also references filling one’s lungs fully, allowing the body to feel enlivened, renewed, and restored.
GALA FLAGELLO is a composer, educator, and nonprofit director whose music is “both flesh and spirit, intensely psychological without sacrificing concrete musical enjoyment” (I Care If You Listen). She is the Festival Director and co-founder of Connecticut Summerfest. Gala was selected as a 2022 Aspen Music Festival Composer Fellow and was the 2021 Promenade Opera Project Composer in Residence. She was recently commissioned by the Albany Symphony, Hub New Music, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Virginia Tech Wind Ensemble, and the Keene State College Concert Band. Gala is currently pursuing a DMA in Composition at the University of Michigan.