“I wrote these songs at my piano, wandering streets, humming to myself on train platforms, recording fragments into cassette recorders. Over time I realised that there was an accumulation of material responding to and expressing my unfolding grief for my mother who died when I was twenty one. These songs cohered into a song-cycle, Very Present Tense charting the passage of my grief for her. I think of the work as a testimony of love, longing and becoming, encompassing the vicissitudes, the dark returns and hopeful openings that emerge through a meaningful engagement with heartfelt loss, the significant arrangement and rearrangement of the material of one’s life that grief demands. I have reflected much on the idea that we become who we are through who or what we lose, on the constitutive force of loss, on how we gain and regain ourselves through living anew in the light of absence. We all bear loss and are all marked and made by it. This collection of songs was my way of making a presence from absence and a way of celebrating or recognising the sustaining love I received from my mother. I called the collection of songs VERY PRESENT TENSE because grief ultimately asks us how we want to engage the present, how ready we are to live, bearing what seems unbearable. Grief can seem to engulf the present with the past but it is truly a work of discovering how to live in a PRESENT TENSE that holds what has been and is not, what might have been and is not and what cannot ever be. Sometimes we have to work to become able to engage with the present, to become able to be in the present. If grief is a grammar of loss involving a past tense, it also offers those willing to explore its demanding work, a life lived in the inexorable present continuous of NOW!”
Christopher created artwork and commissioned calligrapher Christopher Austin to overlay the lyrics of Very Preset Tense.