Instrumentation: 1-5 Instruments, Electronics
Duration: 8:00
Performers: Kate Stenberg, violin, and Sarah Cahill, piano
Commissioned by Kate Stenberg and Sarah Cahill with support from InterMusic SF.
Premiered at Old First Concerts in San Francisco on Oct 12, 2018.
Recording available upon request

Program Notes

Talking in Circles was written for Kate Stenberg and Sarah Cahill with the generous support of Intermusic SF. It is a piece written for any instrumentation, between 1-5 players, with electronics. For a long time, I’ve been interested in how musical ideas are transformed by performance practice, and I wanted to write a piece that puts the importance of the interpretive art form at the forefront.

So often in new music, all we talk about is the “genius composer” and how to faithfully execute the vision put forward: the “real” piece is what the composer writes on the page, while the performers are simply interchangeable recreators. Yet this idea has always been, if we’re being charitable, an inaccurate shorthand, and at its worst, a way of taking credit for other people’s creativity.

With Talking in Circles, I wanted to highlight the invaluable creative role of the performer. And what better way to do that than by making the instrumentation open-ended? Some aspects of the piece remain strictly written out, but many others are left to interpretation—by necessity, given the wide variability in the capabilities of different instruments.

The challenge for me in writing the piece was to come up with something that would be recognizable as the same piece no matter the instrumentation, but that would allow for a wide range of expressive possibilities.

What you’ll hear tonight then, is quite different from what you would hear if another group of people were to perform the piece, especially if it were on different instruments. However, even with the same instrumentation, there is enough variability in the score that other performers would likely come up with something very different.