“Restitution” narrates the story of an enslaved nanny who is forced to care for her captors’ five children for twenty hours a day, every day, for two years. The tentative beginning, portrayed by the repeating syncopated rhythms intermixed with long inhales and exhales between the four players, begins this tragedy with a sense of tainted adventure fueled by the hope for a promising new job.
As conditions worsen, the motherly care of the five children influences the piece to stay aloft with bouncing melodies and pizzicato accompaniment. The airiness of the string instruments’ artificial harmonics alludes to the ever-complicating situation the nanny has found herself in. The woodwinds hesitantly play with a rhythmic complexity that tends to pause after developing slightly. Short ideas shift in mood as if arguing between hope and worry, painting the unique picture of a nanny caring for children who may have no idea their parents have enslaved this woman they rely on.
The flute accompanied cello solo halfway through the piece symbolizes the nanny’s understanding that she is not treated fairly. Directly after this slow section of daunting realization, a mischievous sounding pizzicato and minor flute melody illustrate the nanny’s complication of caring for her captor’s innocent children while anxiously devising a potential escape plan.
All four instrumentalists suddenly create four consistent beats that hint at the nanny’s growing heart rate as she quickly calls the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Melodic and rhythmic material found previously in the piece begin to swirl and break down with melodic counterpoint and mixed meters. Chaos in the nanny’s mind slows for a short section during the lull of the soft straight 8th-notes in the woodwinds, only to suddenly emerge in a transposed variation of the previous chaos.
When the tempo gradually slows, the woodwinds continue a complex rhythmic interplay while the strings double the third of G-major chord, the first major chord in the piece. The nanny’s unique situation begins to come to an end with her successful escape but is still weighed down by the tragic and overwhelming experience, giving reason to the unresolved feeling of the inverted G-major chord.
Pizzicato in the string instruments carry one of the first non-syncopated rhythms, representing a slowed heartbeat, while the woodwinds trail off with the same intervallic material heard throughout the piece. One final breath leads to the final cluster chord at the end, leaving the listener with a completed sense of rhythm paired with a nearly unresolved harmony.
*A big thank you to my many donors on Ko-fi.com who supported this Vienna trip.