Valencia’s City Lights

In high school I had a choice of learning a minimum of two years of either Spanish or French. Believing French to be more difficult, I opted for Spanish and stuck with it for four years. Little did I know that twenty years later I would find myself in beautiful Valencia, Spain struggling to remember any of what I had learned while trying to order food and drink! ¡Ayúdame!

I have travelled here for the VIPA Festival and to hear the premiere of my new string quartet, City Lights, for the Mivos Quartet. VIPA is run by composer Jorge Grossmann, faculty at Ithaca College and previously at UNLV, where—long ago—I met him while attending and later being commissioned by the Nevada Encounters of New Music Festival. In addition to Jorge, the faculty include Lei Liang from UCSD and Stefano Gervasoni from the Paris Conservatory. Mivos Quartet, of course, needs no introduction. As one of the most active string quartets in the US with a contemporary music focus, I am thrilled to hear what they make of my new work.

I arrived at the title City Lights partway through composition of the piece. In this work, I wanted to capture some of the frenzied energy of great urban centers, especially the way sights and sounds change in rapid and unpredictable succession. The work is cast in two broad sections, the first highly rhythmic—often syncopated—and the second more introspective. One might think of these musical sections as two aspects of the same idea, image, or place: the city up close with its bustling crowds and the city from a distance, its lights a sparkling blur of colors.

I have written before about how place affects my work, so it comes as no surprise to me that after two years of working in Hong Kong I am creating music with a connection to urban landscapes. I hope to explore aspects of this experience in more detail in a number of upcoming projects. For now, however, I look forward to City Lights, both in my music and in beautiful Valencia.