Asperges Me (performed by What’s Next? Ensemble)

My quartet “Asperges Me” was premiered by What’s Next? Ensemble (Alexander Elliott Miller, electric guitar; Sakura Tsai, violin; Brett Banducci, viola; Joo Lee, cello) at their annual Los Angeles Composers Project on April 19 in Pasadena. The piece is based on the Latin antiphon of the same name, which is a part of the Roman Catholic Mass. Taken from Psalm 51, my piece uses the first two lines, “Thou shalt purge me, with hyssop and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” I wrote the piece following the birth of my nephew (the piece is dedicated to his parents) while thinking about the transformative possibilities that lie dormant in every relationship. One can view the piece as a kind of deconstruction of the chant. The melody itself has a beautiful rise and fall, invoking a sense of striving as it ascends and release as it falls and returns to the tonic. I took the melody and broke it down into 1-3 note fragments which are played in each voice and harmonized according to a range of overtone ratios. I prefer to look at the piece as a kind of translation, or opening-up. Each voice plays every part of the entire melody, but each with its own harmonization. As a collective, the ensemble plays the entire set of ratios and the audience gets to hear each note of the melody cast in a slightly different way, giving the piece a sense of multi-dimensionality. Duration, dynamics, and even the choice of one instrument are decided upon by the players, granting a wide range of expressive potential and making each performance specific to the ensemble.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s