Overlooking the City of Jerusalem, Jared Miller could hear shrieks and howls in the wind, along with a rustling that sounded like whispers.
He’d just experienced the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre and couldn’t help but associate the whisper-like sounds with the people who’d lost their lives.
Ten years later, Miller was still thinking about that moving visit to the Holocaust centre, especially the room that contained the names and tidbits on the six million Jews who died.
Working as a musician currently completing his doctoral of musical arts in composition at the Juilliard School in New York and as the composer in residence for the Victoria Symphony (VS), Miller always wanted to write a piece about his memorable experience in Jerusalem that day. Now he can tick that off with Lament of the Wind — a piece that uses unconventional instruments like glass bottles and slide whistles to create a unique experience for listening ears.
“I tried to evoke these different sounds I can make and also the rustling whispering quality of the wind, but I also try to evoke what I felt experiencing this exhibit and my emotional reaction to it,” said Miller, who also found farewell letters written by prisoners to their children while he was doing research into the archives of the Holocaust centre. At certain points in Lament of the Wind, brass players whisper text from the letters through their instruments.
“They are extremely sad, beautiful letters because you can hear the love of these parents for their children. It’s heartbreaking.”
Signing on in 2014 as the VS composer in residence for three years, Lament of the Wind is hardly the first time Miller (who splits his time between Victoria and New York) will debut his own music. The 28-year-old writes two works per season for the symphony — an opportunity he calls rare and feels lucky to have. He also curates the New Music Festival every year with VS music director Tania Miller (no relation).
This year’s festival celebrates Canada’s 150th anniversary, noting the diverse beauty of the country’s landscapes with a wide variety of spatialized orchestral and choral works.
The first concert, Music for a Sacred Space, takes place inside Christ Church Cathedral on March 8 with performers stationed, and in some cases, moving throughout the space, appearing and disappearing as the music weaves its spell. It’s an experience Miller has enjoyed a handful of times as an audience member in other venues, and one he just had to share.
“I found this type of concert experience to be very refreshing and very different from what you might normally come across in a classical music setting. You’re closer to the music, you’re closer to the musicians, you can experience the music in different ways as it travels throughout the space,” said Miller, who turns off his phone and meditates in order to get into the creative zone for composing music.
“I hope that they (the audience) will be moved by the music because regardless of where in the space the musicians are standing or how it’s being presented, ultimately what it comes down to is that the music is all, in my opinion, very beautiful and very communicative.”
The second concert, Soundscapes and Landscapes, takes place at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall on March 11 and features the Victoria Symphony showcasing the unique regions of Canada through sound.
This year marks the last time Miller will be curating the New Music Festival, but it certainly won’t be his last collaboration as his residency comes to an end in May. He’ll also premier another piece that same month, along with two more next season.
The New Music Festival features work by Pulitzer and Grammy winner John Luther Adams, Paul Frehner, Dorothy Chang and John Kosrud. Sacred Space begins at 7:30 p.m. and Soundscapes and Landscapes begins at 8 p.m. For more information or tickets call 250-385-6515 or visit victoriasymphony.ca/nmf.