Cellist and composer Erik Friedlander lost his wife of many years, dancer and choreographer Lynn Shapiro, to breast cancer in 2011. She'd been diagnosed a decade earlier, and Friedlander says music became a place of vital release for him as her condition worsened.
"During the difficult years, I did take refuge in working," he says. "It was a place where I could make the rules; where I could control what I could control."
In a bit of irony so precise that Friedlander calls it "almost comical," he lost access to that refuge just a week after his wife's death.
"I have a 15-year-old daughter. We had an argument before she went to school, and she walked out, slammed the door and left her lunch on the table," Friedlander says. "So I thought it would be a good opportunity to sort of mend the wound of the argument: I grabbed the lunch and got on my bicycle. And it was a little rainy outside, and I slipped off and absolutely tore, completely, a ligament in my left thumb. So I was really left without any outlet."
The injury took months to heal, during which Friedlander had plenty of time to think; the new album Claws & Wings is his first since that difficult period in his life. Friedlander recently spoke with NPR's Arun Rath about finding his way back to a place of creativity. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.