The Incredulity of St Thomas

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
John 20 : 24–25

This story ap­peals to me be­cause it presents a small vign­ette on doubt and ques­tioning. Despite being em­bedded in the cult of Jesus, Thomas re­fuses to be­lieve in Jesus’s re­sur­rec­tion without evid­ence: he in­sists on his own phys­ical reality and ques­tions the views of his closest friends. This ques­tioning seems to me to be an im­portant part of how one might ap­proach the world and live in it.

I have pre­vi­ously set out to write music with lit­erary or philo­soph­ical grains of in­spir­a­tion des­pite the im­possib­ility of es­tab­lishing a direct cor­rel­a­tion for the listener between a per­formed mu­sical ex­per­i­ence and the myriad con­nota­tions made and thought­ways taken during the writing pro­cess. To adapt Gaston Bachelard’s ana­lysis of the poet and their image to the com­poser and their ma­terial: ‘The com­poser does not confer the past of their ma­terial upon me, and yet their ma­terial im­me­di­ately takes root in me. Materials ex­cite us — af­ter­wards — but they are not the phe­nomena of an ex­cite­ment’ (The Poetics of Space, 1969, p.xvii). I am not sure I can en­tirely say why this has proved a fruitful paradox to pursue for me, but given the im­possib­ility in­herent in it, I might com­pare the writing pro­cess to run­ning to­wards a place that does not exist, and that which res­ults — the music — to the dust thrown into the air by my heels.

The Incredulity of St Thomas was written for per­form­ance by the Talea Ensemble at the Harvard Summer Composition Institute, August 2012. I am grateful to the Solti Foundation for sup­porting my par­ti­cip­a­tion in this project.

  • Instrumentation

    • Bass Clarinet
    • Cello
    • Percussion (variable)
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  • Audio