During a trip to the dentist my oldest son Isaac was given laughing gas. The dentist called it sweet air, a gentle name to take the fear out of having a cavity filled. It worked. My son experienced something—a drug—so comforting that it made him ignore all signs of unpleasantness. This seemed somehow musical to me. One of music's traditional roles has always been to soothe the uneasy. I must say I have never been that interested in exploring this role. It is much easier to comfort the listener than to show why the listener might need to be comforted. My piece ''sweet air'' tries to show a little bit of both. In ''sweet air,'' simple, gentle musical fragments float by, leaving a faint haze of dissonance in their wake.
''sweet air'' was written for the ensemble Sentieri Selvaggi for premiere at the Settembre Musica Festival in Torino, Italy, 9 September 1999. It is intended as a birthday present for Louis Andriessen - Happy sixtieth birthday, Louis!