This is the first piece I composed after the birth of my first child. I started a month after she ("Mina") was born. When I completed the piece, she was a five-month-old baby!
I was truly inspired by attending the childbirth (not that I did anything there), especially by the sight of a newborn baby. I was amazed how one's life on earth starts so suddenly. This piece also begins as if it starts in the middle; the soloists play together at first, as if they were one instrument. I wanted to show how rapidly the mood of the music shifts from one mood to another, just as if you were looking at the baby's face, which displays four expressions in one second...
Also in the middle of the piece, the bass flute solo is accompanied by prepared dulcimer and bells and so on; I imagined it as a dreaming section. It is strange, looking at a one-month-old baby: you can tell clearly she is dreaming, but about what, I wonder. She has only been here for a month; what can she see, to make her smile or cry, so vivid is her dream. I found this experience both mysterious and peaceful, looking over the crib she is sleeping in.
Mina was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and co-commissioned by Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. This piece was written for an orchestra with five soloists who are from ICE—a chamber ensemble with whom I have long-standing relationship and with whom I can work most intimately. Despite the fact we have a vast ocean between us (I live in London, ICE is in New York), we communicated via Skype and email, recording samples on phones and computers and sending them back and forth; I felt as if they were in my room in London while I composed. I think that this is the best composer-player relationship you can ask for!
The orchestra's role is to surround the soloists, almost like parents do to their children; they react, sometimes initiate the reaction, sometimes there are five different concerti playing simultaneously with specific coupling between the solo instrument and orchestral instruments.
So obviously this piece was written in very special time of my life.