You are here

Guest Artist Concert: Mivos Quartet, Music of UW Composers

Friday, March 29, 2024 - 7:30pm
Seating is in the Meany West Lobby (Capacity is limited) - Google Map
$20 general; $15 UW affiliate; $10 students, seniors
Mivos Quartet. Photo: Andrej Grilc
Mivos Quartet. Photo: Andrej Grilc

Acclaimed new music group the Mivos Quartet, dubbed by the Chicago Reader“ one of America’s most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles,” performs premieres by UW faculty composers Joël-François Durand and Huck Hodge and works by Ambrose Akinmusire and Chikako Morishita in this guest artist performance.


Ambrose Akinmusire, “May Our Centers Hold” (2023) 
Joël-François Durand, Quatuor à cordes no.3 (2023-24) 


Chikako Morishita, Doll Time (2019) 
Huck Hodge, La gran soledad (2023) 
in memoriam Francisco Iovino 

The sea devours our grids and our lives
II Monologue (in shadow)
III There’s a whispering immensity awake in these lifeless stones
IV Dialogue (with echo)
V1 Diacope (Anaphora / Anadiplosis) | V2 Burden | V3 Dactyls (en séance avec Rube Goldberg)
VI Epilogue (in apostrophe)

Program Notes

La gran soledad 
in memoriam Francisco Iovino

I: I painted a motorcycle that I found on a beach half buried and covered with algae. I like how the things that people abandon deteriorate and become inhuman and beautiful. (Tomás Gonzalez, La luz dificil)

II: Death is a bad thing; that’s what the gods must think; otherwise they’d die too. 
(Sappho, as quoted in Aristotle, Rhet.)
I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow, the million moving shapes and cul-de-sacs of shadow. There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people’s eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth(Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar)

 III: Lonely stillness / a cicada’s cry / seeping into the rocks (Matsuo Bashō)

 IV: "From a mountain as high as this one," he said to himself, 
"I shall be able to see the whole world at one glance, and all the people . . ."
But he saw nothing, save peaks of rock that were sharpened like needles.
"Good morning," he said courteously.
"Good morning--Good morning--Good morning," answered the echo.
"Who are you?" said the little prince.
"Who are you--Who are you--Who are you?" answered the echo.
"Be my friends. I am all alone," he said.
"I am all alone--all alone--all alone," answered the echo.
"What a strange planet!" he thought. "It is altogether dry, and altogether pointed, 
and altogether harsh and forbidding. And the people have no imagination. 
They repeat whatever one says to them . . . 
On my planet I had a flower; she always was the first to speak . . ."
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)

 There would be no love without echo. In myths, the guarantee of mercy was in the acceptance of sacrifices; but love, the after-image of the sacrificial act, pleads for this acceptance, if it is not to feel itself to be under a curse. […] Infatuated with technology, [people] project their hatred for the superfluous exertion of their existence onto the expenditure of the energy that pleasure requires as a moment of its being, all the way into its sublimations. In spite of the countless facilitations, their lives remain an absurd toil; and yet they have no patience for the squandering of energy in happiness, life’s secret. (Theodor W. Adorno, “Undeliverable” from Minima Moralia)

V: I’d like to see a forklift lift a crate of forks. It’d be so damn literal! (Mitch Hedberg)

VI: my vast solitude was suddenly filled with the entire universe (Tomás Gonzalez, La luz dificil)

La gran soledad — vast solitude — is a pervasive theme in La luz dificil by the Colombian writer Tomás Gonzalez. In the novel, David, an elderly painter rapidly descending into blindness, reflects on the death of his son some twenty years in the past. The narration shifts periodically across the decades in a way that disrupts the successive arrow of time and demonstrates that past memory and present experience continuously permeate one another. In his grief, David frames the world with a painter’s eye. At one point he recalls finding an abandoned motorcycle slowly disintegrating on a beach. This image of an inhuman beauty arising out of the conflux of rigidly mechanical design and fluid natural force is striking.

We might normally consider the capacity to experience beauty a distinctly human affair, what sets us apart from creatures whose only concern is mere survival. Similarly, we might think that strict, mechanical grids are characteristically inhuman. But nature does not show a preference for grids; it is we who find 90° angles to be somehow “right.” To celebrate the dissolution of grids is to come to terms with death, with the end of our distinctness from the world, with the return to inorganic nature. I suppose there is some beauty in this recognition, but it is a harsh beauty, a truly difficult light. I bring this up only as an attempt to work through the death of a close friend of mine. His death was sudden, and because his family could not access the contacts list on his phone, relying instead on social media platforms I had long since departed, I only learned of it after his funeral. 

Michel de Montaigne, channeling Cicero, once wrote that “to philosophize is to learn how to die.” The same could be said for composing music. Every piece is a life lived in miniature, an itinerary spanning the birth of new forms and their ultimate dissolution. And so it is with this piece, in which assorted musical grids pass over into oceanic textures. Along the way, the various movements resonate with writers who have been important to my life. Sappho’s shadow dwells in the fragment quoted by Aristotle and the meditations of Sylvia Plath, as the cello adumbrates the violin in the second movement. Movement three imagines stumbling upon the forest scene described by Bashō more than three centuries later, where if you listen closely, you might be able to hear the loneliness of the cicadas still murmuring in the rocks. The episode that follows reflects on the notion that love is as intangible as an echo, the presence of an absence, the “after-image of sacrifice.” Sappho’s shadow makes a final appearance in movement five; there is a certain pithy humor in her aphorism that reminds me of the laconic one-liner delivery of the late stand-up comic Mitch Hedberg. For me, the power of her words is in this elusive comedic quality, the way she wryly transforms the malaise of mortality into pleasure by virtue of the absurd. Perhaps Gonzalez had this sort of transformation in mind when he wrote “my vast solitude was suddenly filled with the entire universe.”


Mivos Quartet

The Mivos Quartet, “one of America’s most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles” (The Chicago Reader), is devoted to performing works of contemporary composers and presenting diverse new music to international audiences. Since the quartet's beginning in 2008 they have performed and closely collaborated with an ever-expanding group of international composers representing a wide aesthetic range of contemporary composition. Highlights during the 2022/23 season will include performances and residencies at Walker Arts Center with Cécile McLorin Salvant and Ambrose Akinmusire, UPenn, ECLAT Festival (DE), Columbia University, Peak Performances with Mary Halvorson, and the announcement of a new album of Steve Reich string quartets. 

Mivos is invested in commissioning, premiering, and growing the repertoire of new music for string quartet, striving for rich collaborations with composers over extended periods of time. Recently, Mivos has collaborated on new works with Jeffrey Mumford (LA Philharmonic/Library of Congress), Michaela Catranis (Fondation Royaumont), Chikako Morishita (rainy days festival), George Lewis (ECLAT Festival Commission), Sam Pluta (Lucerne Festival Commission), Eric Wubbels (CMA Commission), Kate Soper, Scott Wollschleger, Patrick Higgins (Zs), and poet/musician Saul Williams. For this work and the continuation of it, the quartet was the recipient of the 2019 Dwight and Ursula Mamlok Prize for Interpreters of Contemporary Music. 

Beyond expanding the string quartet repertoire, Mivos is committed to working with guest artists exploring multi-media projects and performing improvised music. Mivos has worked closely with artists such as Cécile McLorin Salvant (Ogresse), Ambrose Akinmusire (Origami Harvest), Ned Rothenberg, Timucin Sahin,  Nate Wooley, and most recently guitarist, composer, and 2019 MacArthur Fellow, Mary Halvorson.

Mivos has performed to critical acclaim on prestigious series such as Noon to Midnight (USA), Lucerne Festival (CH), Jazz at Lincoln Center (USA), the New York Phil Biennial (USA), Wien Modern (AT), the Darmstadt Internationalen Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (DE), rainy days festival (LU), Asphalt Festival (DE), HellHOT! New Music Festival (Hong Kong), Shanghai New Music Week (CN), Música de Agora na Bahia (Brazil), Aldeburgh Music (UK), and Lo Spririto della musica di Venezia (IT). 

In addition to their performance season, Mivos is committed to the education of young composers and string players, and is regularly the quartet in residence at the Creative Musicians Retreat at the Walden School (USA) and the Valencia International Performance Academy and Festival (ES). The quartet has conducted workshops at Columbia University, Harvard University, Boston University, UC Berkeley, US San Diego, Duke University, Royal Northern College of Music (UK), Shanghai Conservatory (China), University Malaya (Malaysia), Yong Siew Toh Conservatory (Singapore), the Hong Kong Art Center, and MIAM University in Istanbul (Turkey) among others. Along with their work at educational institutions, Mivos grants the Mivos/Kanter String Quartet Composition Prize, a yearly award to support the work of emerging and mid-career composers residing in the USA, and the I-Creation prize, a competition for composers of Chinese descent worldwide.

The members of Mivos are violinists Olivia De Prato and Maya Bennardo, violist Victor Lowrie Tafoya, and cellist Tyler J. Borden. Mivos operates as a non-profit organization dedicated to performing, commissioning, and collaborating on music being written today.

Joël-François Durand

Composing, writing, teaching, inventing new ways of hearing – all are linked in the work of Joël-François Durand. As a composer, his career was launched in Europe with important prizes: a Third Prize at in the 1983 Stockhausen Competition for the piano piece “…d’asiles déchirés…,” the Kranichsteiner Preis from the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music in 1990. Commissions and performances from many of today’s most significant ensembles followed – Ensemble Intercontemporain, London Sinfonietta, Arditti Quartet, Jack Quartet, Quatuor Diotima, ASKO, Ensemble Recherche, musikFabrik, Talea Ensemble, Dal Niente Ensemble, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philarmonique de Radio France, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Durand is Professor of Composition at the School of Music, University of Washington, as well as Acting Director. He has been awarded the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Professorship for 2019-22. Durand’s works are singular and powerful, combining rigorous and innovative structures with a prominent lyrical impulse. Durand’s music and personality received critical attention in the 2005 book Joël-François Durand in the Mirror Land (University of Washington Press and Perspectives of New Music) edited by his University of Washington School of Music colleague Jonathan Bernard, which features in addition to analyses by Bernard and several of the School’s students, an innovative self-interview authored by Durand himself. Recent projects for Durand include a work for large orchestra, Tropes de : Bussy, based on some of Debussy’s piano Préludes, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, which was premiered April 18-20, 2019 and a work for viola and ensemble, to be premiered by Melia Watras, viola and the Dal Niente ensemble in May 2020.

Commercial recordings of his music are available on the Auvidis-Naïve, Mode Records, Wergo, Albany Records and Soundset Recordings labels. In 2010, Durand embarked on a new path: he designed and started commercial production of a new tonearm for record players. The Talea, as it was called, took the audio world by storm and was followed by three further models, the Telos, the Kairos and most recently (2019), the Tosca also aimed at the most refined audio reproduction systems. For his work at his company Durand Tonearms LLC, he was made a University of Washington Entrepreneurial Fellow in 2010.  As a guest composer and lecturer, Durand has contributed to the “Centre de la Voix” in Royaumont, France where he was co-director of the composition course in September 1993, the “Civica Scuola di Musica” in Milan, Italy (1995), the Royal Academy for Music in London, UK (1997), the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1984, 1990, 1992, 1994), the “VIII. Internationaler Meisterkurs für Komposition des Brandenburgischen Colloquiums für Neue Musik”, Rheinsberg (1998), Washington State University, Pullman, WA (2004), and Stanford University (2006), among others. In the Fall 1994 he was Visiting Assistant Professor in Composition at the University of California at San Diego.

Durand is listed in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Faculty Composer Huck Hodge

Huck Hodge is professor and chair of the composition program in the school of music. A composer of “harmonically fresh work", "full of both sparkle and thunder” (New York Times), his music has been praised for its “immediate impact” (Chicago Tribune), its "clever, attractive, streamlined" qualities (NRC Handelsblad, Amsterdam), and its ability to "conjure up worlds of musical magic” with “power and charisma" (Gramophone Magazine, London). There is a dramatic interplay of color, light, and darkness in his music, which emerges from an uncanny blending of pure and dissonant harmonies, widely spaced orchestrations and vast, diffuse timbres. 

Hodge is the recipient of many prestigious awards and distinctions. Among these is the Charles Ives Living, the largest music award conferred by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His other major awards include the Rome Prize (Luciano Berio Fellowship), the Gaudeamus Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, the American Composers Forum (JFund), the Barlow Endowment, Music at the Anthology (MATA), the American Academy in Rome, Muziek Centrum NederlandMusik der Jahrhunderte, and the National Theater and Concert Hall of Taiwan, in addition to multiple grants and awards from ASCAP, the Bogliasco Foundation, Copland House, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), MacDowell, New Music USA, the Siemens Musikstiftung, and Yaddo.

His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and at numerous major festivals — the New York Philharmonic Biennial, Berliner Festspiele, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Shanghai New Music Week (上海当代音乐周), ISCM World Music Days, and many others in over twenty countries on six continents. Other performances include those by members of the Berlin Philharmonic and Ensemble Modern, the ASKO / Schönberg Ensemble, the Seattle Symphony, and the Orchestra of the League of Composers. His chamber music has been premiered, performed and recorded by a long list of soloists and ensembles such as the Daedalus, JACK, Mivos, and Pacifica string quartets, the Adapter, Aleph, Argento, Dal Niente, Divertimento, Insomnio, SurPlus, and Talea ensembles, and his colleagues David Gordon, Donna Shin, Cristina Valdés, Cuong Vu, and Bonnie Whiting. His published music is distributed by Alexander Street Press (US) and Babel Scores (France). Recordings of his music appear on the New World and Albany record labels and have been featured in numerous national and international broadcasts.

Before joining the University of Washington, Hodge taught composition at Columbia University, where he earned his M.A. and D.M.A. studying with Fred Lerdahl, George Lewis, and Tristan Murail. Prior to this, he studied composition, theory, and new media at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart, Germany, with Marco Stroppa and Georg Wötzer as well as music, German literature and philosophy at the University of Oregon and the Universität Stuttgart. He has been a visiting professor/invited lecturer on music and aesthetics at a variety of institutions including the University of Chicago, CNMAT/UC Berkeley, UCSD, Columbia University, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, NYU, and the Universität der Künste in Berlin, and he served for three years as the director of the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop at the Seattle Symphony.