Photo taken at Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO, 2020

on the fragility of time

for cello and voice (2020)

In the spring of 2020, the world saw itself in what seemed a never-ending stretch of tumultuous times. When my friend Elizabeth Kate Hall-Keough commissioned this piece in May of 2020, I began composing while paralyzed in a time of sorrow and turbulence, uncertainty and fear. For the several quarantined months that followed, time simply seemed so frail. With so many challenges coming to forefront one after another, both across the world and microscopically within our own individual lives, I couldn’t help but continuously question and doubt the meaning of time. In some ways, time seemed go to so much faster than I could keep up – the news got darker exponentially day by day. But in other ways, time seemed so much slower, so stretched out, with pain, fragility, weakness and vulnerability so much more acute and infinite.

Overall life felt inexplicably ever-changing, complex, and fluid. Quarantine made me realize how microscopically we live our life at time, both in an individual as well as communal sense. Time can make us selfish, or on the other hand, make us realize things we weren’t doing enough for ourselves. Time can be warped to intentionally include or exclude certain elements. A sense of frozen time, imposed by the pandemic, can make us feel robbed from a sense of purposeful time. In similar ways, love, or its absence, can also manipulate our sense of time.

on the fragility of time is, then, a meditation and reflection of these complicated sentiments. It is in part a lullaby – an attempt to comfort oneself in moments of deep darkness. But it's also pondering, haunting, and at moments harsh. On one hand, I composed with intention for the audience to experience time literally slowing down as they listen, to lull the listener into subconscious meditation and self-reflection. But the piece is also one way of me conveying the confusing, cluttered emotions and thoughts that have consciously and subconsciously plagued my mind over the last many months about myself, those around me, and our planet.


I feel very lucky to be able to process these complicated times from a distance, and recognize that I am only on the outskirts of the incredibly challenging experiences of those facing effects of the pandemic, systemic racism, natural disaster, violence, and so forth headfirst. This piece isn’t focused on capturing my own experience but rather seeks to create an environment that invites listeners to reflect on their own experiences. Working with Elizabeth during a time where so much felt impossible was such a wonderful experience, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be creating music during this time.


October 24th, 2020 – Kulas Recital Hall, Oberlin Conservatory

March 2021 – Warner Hall, Oberlin Conservatory

© 2020 Natsumi Osborn. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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