“Tathāgata” is the term Goutama Buddha often used when referring to himself after his enlightenment. In Pali and Sanskrit, “tatha” is the “truth”, and “āgata” is “to come”, “arrived”. (The noun buddha drives from “budh”, which means “to understand”.) As Buddha often said, he was a man, not a god or saviour and “…Tathagatas are only teachers… [who] point out the path…”. He taught that it is up to us to make the effort ourselves to follow the right path. “Nibbāna” is the cessation of sorrow and suffering (in Sanskrit “Nirvana”).
The String Quartet is in two contrasting movements. The structure, both overall and within movements, and many musical procedures, build on mathematical ideas. For the composer many layers of intention and personal history combine, but in performance the main impression is of struggle against conflict and discord, eventually overcome in exultant song in the First movement; the Second instead is contemplative, fugal, sometimes complex and intense, but finally resolving tensions and simplifying to end in an ancient cadence.
Near the start of play, a reference is made to the strings that the audience can hear, and Tennessee Williams is quite specific in where he wants music to be placed. The director of the production, Jesse Peach, and I decided that a solo violin would be the appropriate medium for the music for his Glass Menagerie.
The music is dominated by one particular theme, which is found in the Prelude. This theme symbolises the unfulfilled or unfulfillable dreams of the cast, and the resignation and quiet desperation that goes hand in hand with these. Other music is present: a theme to represent Amanda, the mother, whose recollections of a more “gentile” time motivate many of her decisions; music from the dance hall and a waltz off the gramophone; and these themes are frequently interwoven.
For practical purposes, numbers are often written longer than needed (eg. the waltz) as their endings need to coincide with stage action, sometimes abruptly. The forms are generally very simple, and I have felt that simple forms and material were best in combination with the drama.