The bulk of Away, Tear Away was written between June and September of 2003. The title was inspired by a fragment of the poem Spell Against Sorrow, by British poet Kathleen Raine (1908-2003):
Black crow tear away
Rend away sorrow
Talon and beak
Pluck out the heart
And the nerves of pain,
Tear away grief.
There is a deep sense of spiritualism in the poem, which I believe is mirrored by the mood of the music.
The work is dedicated to the Mexico City Woodwind Quintet, who commissioned it through the Manitoba Arts Council.