Intimacies (2023)

In today’s culture (gasping as it is for nuanced vocabulary and thought), the word ‘intimacy’ seems mainly to appear in conversations about (human) relationships, as polite popular code for sex.

For those inclined to living with more nuance, there is a multifluence of ‘intimacies’. These include states of connection that can be metaphysical, extra-sensory and hyper-sensory. Intimacies can be experienced alone, with another, with a setting or place, or an intimacy beyond all sense of self. Buddhism, for instance, describes such a refined state of loving attention & immersive connection, that every micromoment is an intimacy. Sometimes I experience intimacy as indescribably precious, a sacrament or contact with the Divine, giving the moment a profoundly spiritual dimension.

The original Latin intimus meant ‘inmost, innermost, deepest’. I think of intimacies collectively as states of deep presence, of inhabiting a space or moment with senses fully alert, yet with the calm that comes with a deepening of trust – whether trust in life or in another. In this context, intimacy includes qualities of openness, vulnerability and tenderness, a shedding of defenses & judgments, and our habitual opinions or perceptions. Intimacy also includes how we share our rawest selves, our ugliness, ignorance and awkwardness, our shames and fears.

Some of the most tender intimacies arise from ’empty’ spaces, such as being in a state of comfortable, shared silence with someone you’re emotionally close to, whether sitting or walking beside each other, or each doing your own thing within the same room, or even at opposite ends of the house. The space between you can allow a sensing of each other’s presence that is deeply private and personal.

The music on Intimacies specifically explores intimacy in the context of a lovers’ relationship, with its many unfolding layers as it deepens over time.

The compositions on this album didn’t begin as ‘intimacies’ in any conceptual sense; but once the collection was complete, the concept wrapped its arms around the pieces and cradled them together. I certainly aimed for a sense of intimate contact through my choice of instrumentation, the piano, cello and tenor horn providing tones that I find mellow, warm, and close.

These pieces were created over a period of several months, as I was (and still am, at this writing) re-evaluating the relationship I share with my best friend, companion in life, lover & spiritual wife of the last eight years. With her I have experienced a more profound, multidimensional intimacy than I have known in any other lover relationship. We have known each other at our rawest and most sublime, we have faced many trials of fire together, we have truly shared life.

The compositions on Intimacies emerged as I was feeling that H & I had begun to separate within the relationship – that is, that as individuals on our own life trajectories, we were naturally, but perhaps temporarily, diverging in different directions. It felt as if we both needed to focus on ourselves for a time, in order to bring more of ourselves to each other. I think we both sensed it and made efforts towards our genuine lovingness, but the uncertainty can be confusing, and our communication mostly fluctuated between superficial, defensive or somehow evasive. We weren’t sharing our deeper selves with each other and I missed our non-physical intimacy.

My emotional textures in making this music were many: sadness, loss of something beautiful and still so full of potential, yearning in the face of a seemingly inevitable change, and grace – that is, honouring the profound richness of our relationship over time. We both feel that in just eight years together we’ve lived several lifetimes, and perhaps we have. Certain metaphysical approaches hold that many relationships have a karmic or cyclic template that resonates through (the illusion of) time – that is, our souls move from one physical incarnation to another, re-uniting with each other on the Earth plane in order to restore some kind of cosmic balance together. H & I often feel so connected beyond the physical, that I can easily imagine our relationship as a deeply soulful karmic process. Another way we speak of our relationship is that we are two manifestations of the same consciousness engaging with itself via separate bodies…a consciousness loving itself.

The following are some notes I made inspired by each piece:

Gatekeepering – The beautifully delicate beginnings of two people carefully opening to each other in friendship. The gentle hesitations, testing the membrane of trust; the small moments of dissonance that bring about harmony. In getting to know each other, there are the questions of choice: how much do I reveal of myself, and in what light? How truthfully myself can I be with this person? Will I stand at the gate, or invite them into the kitchen?

I treasure this stage of H and I first knowing each other as friends. Neither of us had any intentions of a romantic relationship, but in retrospect we can see that in those first months, we had unknowingly allowed ourselves a very gentle courtship. We offered each other grace, respect and tenderness, and sensitivity to each other’s hesitations. Those moments of cautious intrigue between us were made intimate by our mutual respect. My pattern in previous relationships had been to dive headlong with the first impulse of attraction. With H however, I savoured the intimacy of new friendship – such a delicate, gradual interweaving with H was completely lifechanging for me.

Sharing Breath – the intimacy of Breath: any loving parent who has had their sleeping infant nuzzled into their chest will know this intimacy, as will any lovers who have lain face to face, less than an inch apart, not touching but close enough to be breathing in the heat of each other’s breath, the living particles from their body flowing straight into your own and back into theirs.

Confession & Trust – In the gentle unfolding of our early relationship, I had a powerful gut feeling that I could trust in H implicitly, and trust in the strength & quality of our union. One of our earliest intimacies was sharing some extremely sensitive private confessions, entrusting ourselves to each other; it felt like a statement of commitment, a vow to carry each other’s most intimate stories with absolute respect and discretion, to guard and protect. Over the years, our confessions have been more to do with self-observation, admitting to certain ‘games’ in our behaviour – no less intimate in their honesty and trust, and sometimes more challenging for it.

Reconsidering Perspectives – In any enduring and mature relationship, there will inevitably be moments when both people are confronted by differences of perception – sometimes in such stark contrast or seeming opposition that it can unsettle the relationship’s foundations. Who is this person I thought I knew so well? How is it that they have perceived me so inaccurately for so long (and vice versa)? Sometimes we have to reconsider our own perspectives in order to appreciate, or at least make room for, the other’s view. If the difference creates a polarisation, it takes careful navigation to examine it honestly together, without pushing each other further away. When you both value the relationship deeply, yet can see that you have developed very different priorities within yourselves as individuals, there is a far deeper intimacy needed – how can we ensure our relationship provides room for us to evolve together as individuals?

Immersion, Surrender – lying still, spooned in, the restful comfort of bodily contact, dissolving into each other, feeling of fusion & merging, sense of physical boundary between our bodies gone…

Confession & Betrayal – a dramatic portent, a warning, the intimate sense of something not right, a blusterfog of denial, until eventual revelation, compassion but betrayal of trust, a switch goes off: knowing your relationship has been permanently altered. There is always profound sadness in having to let go of someone you love so deeply, but often what we are really letting go of are our own attachments and insecurities. And there is intense intimacy whenever our trust is confronted within a relationship. Betrayal needn’t involve a third party; in a sensitive relationship, any period of suspicion, doubt, feeling lied to or that something is being concealed or withheld, can upset the waters. When you have both shared so much, why hide anything?

Hesitation Meets Persistence – here I’m trying to convey a dialogue between two forces, having a dissonant but ultimately unifying interaction. There can be powerful intimacy when, in moments of disagreement or conflict, both people also remember how they love each other, that emotions are a fluid experience, and that they can make mindful choices even in the midst of disagreement. Sometimes one partner has enough clarity to persist in the face of the other’s resistance, in order to break through some habituated barrier.

Sharing Tears – when the soul’s pain is squeezed out as jewels, and the buried child can have a voice. We so rarely allow ourselves to weep, or to release ourselves into full-bodied sobbing, to wash away our pain and despair…and yet we are made of water. What a precious thing to share the water of oneself with one you know receives your tears with nothing but love.

Momentary Derangements – deliberately discordant and offkilter, flashes of moments in a relationship when we spontaneously forget our behavioural construct and do something goofy, childlike, or otherwise uncharacteristic. It is intimacy with our awkwardnesses, allowing our facades to fall apart. In lovemaking, it can be the intimacy of mutual curiosity, experiences beyond the familiar, or surrendering to the wild, mindless ecstasy of physical union.

Breathing Each Other – a reprise of Sharing Breath, and in deep intimacy, a common outcome of sharing breath. This is the intimacy of silent rhythm and pulse, dissolving into a state of union together, whether in lovemaking or rest. When H and I dissolve into each other, we lose all sense of where we begin or end, we become a circuit of energy, flowing in a continuum.

The cover image for Intimacies is a detail of a photo H took one night, of rose petals coated in syrup, decorating one of H’s voluptuous cake creations. The image holds both deep shadows and glistening highlights, is sensuous and erotic, raw and delicate, almost confronting in its fleshy detail.