The Momenta Quartet has been awarded a generous grant from the Sparkplug Foundation to support our “And so the heavens turned” project! The funds will commission composer Elizabeth Brown and me to write new works for the concert.
Elizabeth’s Babel, for string quartet and electronic sound, with sculpture and video by Lothar Osterburg, celebrates NYC as a living organism. Momenta is spaced around Osterburg’s monumental interpretation of Babel, covered with pages from discarded books in many languages. Brown’s recordings of Emma Lazarus’s verse from the Statue of Liberty, read in English in multiple accents, form the soundscape’s center. This positive version of Babel is cumulative, its history visible, its influx of immigrants the source of its life and beauty.
My work, The book of evening, will be for shakuhachi and string quartet. It is drawn from Mark Strand’s poem “Moon,” which pictures the moon appearing between clouds. The music reflects this as a sonic image, the shakuhachi surrounded by the strings’ musical “clouds.” Strand’s moon creates a path to “those places where what you had wished for happens.” The music evokes longing for that place, vanishing as the book of evening closes. Imagery based on the moon is important in Japanese culture, and Strand’s poem has the same impetus. The piece imagines the two cultures contemplating the same shared heavenly being, the moon; simultaneously the moon contemplates the two human cultures.This work is a new direction for me, as it is my first to bring together the shakuhachi with Western instruments.
In other news on the project, we now have a date for the premiere on the Interpretations concert series: December 5, 2019 at Roulette in Brooklyn!
If you’d like to follow our project on the New Music USA site, here’s a link to the page: