The titles of the six movements of On the Verge are phrases from English translations of death haiku that I picked out from Yoel Hoffman's 1986 anthology, Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death. I was inspired by the elegance of the words and the brevity and succinctness of the haiku form, and equally, by the air that pervades the poems of quiet acceptance of death as a natural inevitability.
I made an active effort not to make the piece about death as an immediate, special event. There is no reference to it anywhere in the piece, except in the final movement ("feast of the dead"). Furthermore, with the exception of the penultimate movement ("my dream goes wandering"), in which murmurings from the quartet give way to a full-bodied hymn of farewell, each of the movements is over before it can blossom into anything bigger.
On the Verge was composed for the Kubrick Quartet as part of a project between the chamber music and composition departments of the Peabody Institute. It would later become the first in a cycle of loosely related pieces that take inspiration from the same source material, followed by When You Contemplate the Waters and Heavenward. It was completed in Baltimore in early 2013.
2 violins, viola, cello
30 April 2013, Peabody Institute, Baltimore, MD
Kubrick Quartet: Orin Laursen and Alan Choo, violins; Dian Zhang, viola; Javier Iglesias, cello