refracted fragments

Back to work-list

Instrumentation: viola and piano
Duration: ca. 9′
Commission: Rebecca Albers
Premiere: 28 February 2008, Auditorium du Louvre (Paris)

Download a (non-printable) PDF score of this work.

Complete work, performed live by Rebecca Albers and Yi-Fang Huang:

Program Note:

When the ultra-talented violist Rebecca Albers approached me to compose a piece for her I was deeply enmeshed in another work, Blue Water, and I initially thought to decline the generous offer. Yet, two things in her favor ultimately persuaded me to accept: 1) the fact that she proclaimed herself a “fan” of my music and approached me out of the blue, and 2) the promise of a Parisian premiere––she had won an audition that would allow her to give a debut recital in the Auditorium du Louvre. So, I took time out from work on Blue Water and composed Refracted Fragments in the span of a few short weeks in the winter of 2007-08.

The work, a single movement for viola and piano, is based on the concept of skewed mirror images (hence refraction, not reflection). A comparison of the first and last measures of the piece shows the relationship (like the opening and closing images of a collapsing tower in Cocteau’s 1930 film, Le Sang d’un poète). Indeed, the entire first half of the work is heard, mostly in reverse, during the second half. I chose as the mid-point not an obvious moment but a subtle one. I leave it to the listener to detect.

The only other aspect of the music worth mentioning in advance of hearing is that, at the time of its composition, parts of Refracted Fragments were inspired by the heartbreakingly gorgeous closing bars of Carissimi’s Jephte (“Plorate filii Israel”), a work that sounds as fresh today as it did in the 17th century.