The title “Pu Em Remu” is from an Ancient Egyptian Pyramid text, originally written in hieroglyphics and representing one of the earliest written records of human thought. According to Egyptian mythology from c. 2400 B.C., the sun god Ra created all things, and humans were created from Ra’s tears. The text spoken in the piece excerpts this story:
(Men and women came into being)
Pu Em Remu Per Em Maat-a.
(from) (the tears) (which came forth) (from) (my eyes)
I was drawn to this text for three reasons: first, the association between birth and water--a woman’s water breaks just before birth, and the evolution story suggests we come from the sea (there is still the salt in our tears...); second, the physiological explanation for tears--that we cry from extreme joy or grief in order to release adrenaline (that inside these droplets is incredible energy); and third, the usual association between sadness and tears, which the Egyptians may have made to help explain the human condition.
In some way, the flute suggested “liquidity” to me, while the percussion suggested the power of creation. This work is intended to be a ritualized birth, drawing from all of these images.
[If you are listening to the recording rather than seeing a performance, you might envision the piece beginning in darkness with the light gradually emerging. The flutist enters from the rear of the hall and gradually processes. At the end, this process is reversed, with the flutist recessing and the lights gradually dimming to black.
Pu Em Remu was commissioned and recorded by the Armstrong Duo.