Peace of Mind for Chamber Orchestra

Two-minute excerpt:

Performed by the 2011 Temple Composers’ Orchestra. Adam Vidiksis, conductor.

Before composing this piece, I had recently read the book Peace is Every Step by Buddhist Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, which focuses on mindful living through meditation and awareness. Hanh encourages the reader to focus on breathing as a way to find peace and calm in the stress and bustle of our everyday lives. I have found his breathing exercises quite useful, although (like anything else) they are only effective with regular practice. Peace of Mind illustrates the calming effects of mindful breathing in an otherwise chaotic world. The piece opens with a sonic imitation of a hurried, chaotic urban environment, complete with car horns and pedestrian crossing signals. The chaos slowly melts away through steady breathing and eventually arrives at a calm and peaceful state. As is always the case, however, the chaos creeps back and interrupts our state of calm. This struggle continues, and in the end, victory over the chaos is not achieved by eliminating it, but by accepting and transforming it into a healthy part of life. This is heard in a final flourish where the “calm” motive is restated with the hurried pace of the opening, fusing the two states of mind.