The composer Alastair Putt took his own life on August 12, 2022, succumbing to a battle with mental illness. The news of Alastair’s death shocked me. I had met Alastair in 2012 at Tanglewood when I was there for the premiere of Pasiphae Verses. He was a Fellow that summer. We became friends, and he offered to let me stay at the “Putt Cottage,” a small brick house in Penge, just outside of London, that had been converted from church property into a residence. I was able to use the Putt Cottage as a base to explore London, and even got some composing done there.
Alastair was witty, gentle, and generous. I was only superficially in touch with him in the last few years and had no sense of his mental health struggle. As I wrestled with my shock at his suicide, I was also working on what to write for a commission for cello quartet, and ended up channeling my sadness and distress into a memorial piece for Alastair.
Prayer Mosaic begins with a quietly grinding pad of sound over which a solitary cello sings. The word “mosaic” reflects the puzzle-like quality of how the celli fit together as the piece goes on. Subsequent sections vary the opening material, intensifying the texture through microtones and glissandi, hinting at mental anguish. The piece ends with a farewell to Alastair, with love.