Rising Tide, my sixth string quartet, was commissioned by the Fry Street Quartet for The Crossroads Project, a multi-disciplinary collaboration that centers on a passionate yet reasoned response by artists and scientists to the crisis of climate change, and the emergence of a new consciousness toward global sustainability. The work is in four movements ("H2O," "Bios," "Forage," and "Societas") with the thematic structure adhering to a conceptual framework delineated by Robert Davies, one of the most vocal and learned physicists working in environmental science today. I was motivated by Davies’ enthusiasm to bring together artists and scientists to create a compelling work of art incorporating scientific research that would inspire deep reflection, and, ultimately, action, among those who experience this performance. In addition, I was greatly enriched by working with a quartet as artistically rigorous and intellectually vibrant as the Fry Street Quartet. Rising Tide is accompanied by a sequence of projected paintings by visual artist Rebecca Allan that also capture the essence of Davies’ foundational configuration for the project. My goal was to create a work with a persistent, and at times, subliminal pulse that carries through the four movements, making the quartet itself a symbol for the measure of life. Rising Tide premieres within The Crossroads Project, but it may also be performed in a pure concert setting. It is –– as all life forms must be –– adaptable to its changing environment. My gratitude goes to the members of that tightly knit ecosystem, the Fry Street Quartet.
Starting with "Source of Life," I imagined an ancient landscape, dark, forbidding and foreboding, dry and dusty, with a small stream of water running through it. I saw in my mind's eye the terrain of Armenia, flat and volcanic, with a looming Mt. Ararat far in the distance. I wrote an imaginary folk tune that starts from nothing, like a tiny stream, and then grows, building to a climax as in a rushing mountain river, and then trickling away.
For "Bios" I wanted to create a steady pulsing throughout, the elemental pulse of life, yet with flickers of energy bursting through, and never purely mechanical or regular, as life is not. I then built momentum before reverting back to the open, more "floating" quality of the beginning. "Forage" is simply a romp - the animals scurrying to find nourishment in field and forest. There's a dancelike quality, yet also something majestic.
"Societas" opens with a chorale-like yearning theme, an innocent and reverential society, serene, yet not still, gaining in intensity until it can be chorale-like no more. A scampering dialogue follows, evoking the dizzying complexity and multi-layered nature of human existence, with all four voices in dialogue or in sync before recalling where it came from.
- Laura Kaminsky, 2012
Two years ago, during a visit to Utah State University, I met Rebecca McFaul and immediately connected with her intense commitment to the idea that music can act as a powerful agent of transformation and change. She spoke eloquently and forcefully about the Fry Street Quartet’s dedication to actively making art that is relevant to the challenges of our time and introduced me to the quartet’s Crossroads Project, which combines music, visuals, and writing to shine light on humanity’s growing unsustainability. Like so many of us, I am extremely concerned about what we humans are doing to our natural environment and I am eager for opportunities to use my own gifts to help. Emergence is the result of The Fry Street Quartet’s and my mutual desire to do what we can to contribute to our collective social conscience.
It struck me early on that the water cycle could be a useful metaphor so I planned Emergence as an abstract narrative in five movements. Each movement is inspired by parts of the water cycle: precipitation, run off, evaporation and transpiration, condensation. Each movement also suggests emotion: exhilaration, joy, wonder, fear, anger, grief, regret, resolve, and reverence.
I hoped to embrace Rebecca’s philosophy about music and compose abstract music which could place every listener inside it, both as a being interconnected with all other kinds of beings and as individual spirits capable of reason, emotion, and action.
- Libby Larsen, 2015
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