Ungrievable Lives for String Quartet by Charlotte Bray.
Commissioned by Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Wigmore Hall, the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and and first performed on 7 April 2022 at the Kleiner Saal, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany, by the Castalian String Quartet.
Under the weight and seriousness of the current migration crisis, I feel compelled to respond to it with the means that I have. With shocking news stories appearing almost daily, I attempt to imagine and find a way of expressing the dangers and suffering that millions of migrants across our globe endure in search of a safe and better life.
I was deeply moved and motivated by the work of the British artist Caroline Burraway. Since 2015 she has responded to the crisis through her art, having witnessed first-hand the situation and refugee camps in the Mediterranean. Burraway’s powerful installation Ungrievable Lives comprises 13 dresses for children, handmade from refugee lifejackets gathered at the ‘Lifejacket Graveyard’ in Lesvos, Greece, hanging from iron and brass Salter scales, above small mounds of sand.
Each dress represents one million of the 13 million child-refugees there are worldwide. They signify absence, evoking memories of a former life, of family, of love and, ultimately, of loss. The work invites the viewer to meditate upon and contemplate the often harrowing journey of refugees as they try to reach the shores of Europe. The scales, an ancient symbol of justice, denote the weighing of the body and soul, prompting the difficult question: “Are the lives of some, more valuable than that of others?” The sand, stacked below each of the dresses, represents borders: physical, political and cultural, which - like sand - constantly shift and change over me.
This forms a large part of the stimulus behind my string quartet; the music explores it through the 13 highly-contrasting miniature movements. (© Charlotte Bray)
Duration: 22 minutes