Jupiter String Quartet - Michi Wiancko (virtual performance)

November 7, 2020, 2:55 PM · Yesterday afternoon, Krannert Center offered a special online performance by the Jupiter String Quartet (the UIUC Quartet-in-residence)! It was in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. They performed from Smith Hall virtually, but I could still sort of pretend I was going off to a recital. The piece was an Urbana-Champaign premiere - "To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores" by Michi Wiancko. She's a violinist herself, which allows her to feel how the performers will produce the music, an aspect that's just as important as the sounds themselves. That's a particular thought I'd love to start thinking about with my music.

The piece was set in 7 movements, which had to do with the journey of water down a river, the Xerces Blue butterfly, which sadly became extinct in 1943, recently-discovered microbes underneath New York City Central Park, the world on fire (especially as she wrote it right around the Australia and California wildfires), a song of mourning to more vulnerable populations, and ending with "Rise Up" as a call to action. It's ultimately meant to be a piece of hope, rather than a piece of anger, as the Jupiters were feeling.

A couple things I enjoyed: she asked for the second violinist and violist at one point to use a credit card (or a Target gift card) to strum or hit the strings on the fingerboard, creating a percussive sound. (She was trying several different cards - I thought it was funny they were using health insurance cards and things :P) She had sketched out a good 40 or 50 ideas for the piece, which she whittled down to the seven in the final piece. It's pretty similar to the process of my String Quartet, actually, which is coming along quite well! I will probably discuss this on my composition website in the near future - it's due December 1!

There were so many lovely moments in the piece as well. The mourning song reminded me of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, with all the instruments playing in unison. The fire movement was particularly fiery, with lots of crunchy chords and crazy rhythms. Ultimately, she was saying how it's a bit of "landscape music," asking listeners to think about their relationship with nature as they listen. I just was at the UIUC Arboretum working on my new String Quartet, watching the autumn leaves fall...

So yeah, I just thought I'd share a bit of this piece. Assuming this link is still working when you read this, here's a little more information if you are interested! I'm excited to look more into Nicola Benedetti's Global Violin Sessions later this month. I'm currently signing up to try and take part on Zoom! It's such a great idea - celebrating many parts of the world and bringing our globe together into this great musical community, through the lens of (obviously) the best instrument, the violin! :P Moreover, it will be fascinating as a composer to explore many styles on a single theme.


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