The use of descansos is a tradition that comes from Spanish culture. Traditionally, descansos were used to mark the place where weary pallbearers would set a coffin down in a funeral procession traveling on foot to the cemetery. Often a stone marker, flowers, or a cross, this marker was known as a descanso. In the United States, this was inherited and used as a way to mark of deaths of settlers moving west as a result of violent conflicts with Native American tribes. In this case, future settlers would often stop there to reflect and pray. This tradition continues in modern times in the form of highway crosses, marking the sites of fatal accidents.
This for me struck a personal note as I have lost friends to such accidents, the descansos for whom I drive past whenever I am back in my hometown in New Jersey. Since their deaths, I have wanted to make some sort of an offering to their memory. Not wanting to write some large overblown emotional work, I have chosen to write a series of works based upon the idea of the descanso, a sonic space for reflection. This is the first of those works, based on a melodic fragment from my 2000 omega for string quartet. The second composition in the series, descanso (waiting), was composed for the ensemble eighth blackbird and was premiered by them in May of 2005.