Far Beyond Far (2014) - For Violin
Far Beyond Far (2015)
for Solo Violin
Commissioned by Jennifer Koh with the generous support of Justus Schlichting, to whom this music is dedicated
“Far Beyond Far” was composed for violinist Jennifer Koh, as part of a series of new commissions to be paired with Paganini’s Caprice No. 24. This Caprice has long epitomized the ideal of “virtuosity” for the nineteenth-century violinist, and so for these new works, Koh asked composers to explore what “virtuosity” means for the violin in the twenty-first century. In addition, these new works were commissioned to celebrate Koh’s recent ownership of her 1727 Stradavarius violin.
In composing this work, I was not directly influenced by Paganini’s music, but it was always nearby (quite literally – his Caprices remained on my piano throughout my writing of this piece) and it served as a lens for me to contemplate the notion of “virtuosity” in the twenty-first century.
The most virtuosic live performances I have witnessed are those where the performer demonstrates complete abandon and commits his or her being – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually – to the music. These performances cease to be about the mastery of complicated musical material, but are instead about the performer using music to speak to the audience directly, simply and profoundly.
While technical brilliance is as central to today’s virtuosity as it was in Paganini’s time, I feel that the emotional and spiritual life that performers can breathe into a composer’s work and transmit to an audience in a live setting is particularly important in today’s increasingly digitized world of communication.
In my short work, I chose to focus on the emotional and intellectual interpretive aspects of virtuosity. While the piece is technically demanding, embracing extremes of the violin’s registers, it is in essence a conversation between musical characters, a study in interpreting and evoking a variety of emotions in the context of a larger musical thought. Like Paganini’s Caprices, I hope this work can function as a vessel for performers to perfect their virtuosity of communicating emotionally, and humanly, through music.
The title, “Far Beyond Far,” quotes a line from E.E. Cumming’s poem “o by the by” from the collection “1 x 1” (1944). I came upon this poem after finishing my piece, but feel it evokes a kindred spirit, and can be one lens through which the performer can choose to interpret the music.