This short, two-movement work came out of an earlier work for solo viola, Gaza Cantos, which was written after the invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli Defence Forces in December 2008. The title references Amir Nizar Zuabi’s play I am Yusuf and this is my brother, set before and after ‘al Nakba’ in 1948. In one scene of this play, an old man stumbles on stage bearing a tree on his back, struggling under the weight. Having planted the tree and watched it grow, he cannot bear to leave it behind as he flees Israeli attacks — a visceral and poetic image of the uprooting of lives by violence. As with Gaza Cantos, my intention is not to cast judgement or even to criticise — believing there is no such thing as intrinsically political music — rather to provoke contemplation and thought.
With the weight of a tree at my back was written for Jess Argall who premiered it in Falmouth, May 2011.