3 Dec 2023

Asian Composers League: Te Waipuna - New Zealand String Quartet

From Music Alive, 9:00 pm on 3 December 2023

Listen to the New Zealand String Quartet perform recent compositions from Japan, Aotearoa, South Korea, and the U.S.

New Zealand geothermal activity

Photo: R F Keam

This Asian Composers League concert is called Te Waipuna (water spring).

It features the New Zealand String Quartet performing music by Aotearoa composers, Karlo Margetić and Louise Webster; Hiroaki Tokunaga from Japan, Kurt Rohde from the U.S., and Jae-Moon Lee, from South Korea.

Listen on RNZ Concert in Sound Lounge, Sunday 3 December at 9pm. Or here now.

Jae-Moon Lee: Rain Drops / Stained Glass

Jae-Moon Lee

Jae-Moon Lee Photo: Supplied

At the time of this concert, South Korean composer Jae-Moon Lee had very recently obtained his PhD in composition from the University of Cambridge.

The inspiration behind his work Rain Drops / Stained Glass is captured in its title.

The composer writes, “When I visited the Stained-Glass Museum in Ely Cathedral on a rainy day, compositional ideas of the work flashed through my mind. The sound of raindrops and images of lights from stained glass were invoked. I focused on exploring complex rhythms and various colours of sound to describe these themes.”

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Hiroaki Tokunaga: Cosmic mosaic

Hiroaki Tokunaga

Photo: Supplied

Hiroaki Tokunaga, a graduate of Tokyo National University of Arts, composed Cosmic mosaic in 2019.

It's the first work he’s written for string quartet.

He says, ‘The descending three notes, first presented by the first violin, is an important motif. Subsequent transformations of the motif describe the eternity of the Cosmos. The melody which appears in the middle section is a love song about the old Japanese tale about Stars.’

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Karlo Margetić: Ricercar

Karlo Margetic

Karlo Margetic Photo: Supplied

Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington composer, Karlo Margetić wrote Ricercar in 2017.

It’s named after the elaborate contrapuntal musical form from the early baroque period - an ancestor of the fugue.

The composer writes, “There’s an underlying sequence of short canons in this piece, which increase in complexity as it progresses; they’ve been 'expressively transformed' for the string quartet, exploring various colours and textures that can be achieved by the ensemble.”

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Kurt Rohde: inside voice

Kurt Rohde

Kurt Rohde Photo: Supplied

San Francisco-based American composer Kurt Rohde composed inside voice in New York City for the Lyris Quartet as part of their Janáček Intimate Letters project in 2015.

In preparation for composing it, Kurt Rohde read many of Janáček’s love letters to married younger woman, Kamila Stösslová. Rohde describes them as an obsessive manifesto between the composer and his muse and he was struck with how Janáček managed to write the letters with intensity and a surprising flexibility of tone, while managing to retain intimacy.

Janáček’s own String Quartet No. 2, ‘Intimate Letters’, was composed to reflect the character of his relationship with Kamila Stösslová, as revealed in these letters. Kurt Rohde was impressed by the construction and emotional range of this quartet, and his work inside voice was his response.

In this single movement work, he wanted to express in music the way a letter-writer wants to make sure their intended reader gets the message.

Rohde says, “My response piece, inside voice, attempts to capture the energy I’m trying to transmit to the listener in my music. The work is in many ways a reflection of the type of person I am; it has a clear focus at the onset, and is intent on a specific course only to become distracted, which itself ultimately comes into focus and develops a new interest in its own right. My “letter” here is the music being played, and it is a letter that is meant to be heard.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Louise Webster: This Memory of Earth

Louise Webster

Louise Webster Photo: Supplied

Auckland-based Louise Webster has a dual career as a composer and child psychiatrist and paediatrician at Starship Children’s Hospital in Tamaki Makaurau.

Webster composed her string quartet, This Memory of Earth, in 2020. She writes:

“Our earliest memories of the land shape who we are, who we become. Early experiences are stored as implicit memory, formed before conscious recollection is possible, but remembered by our bodies, our senses, our emotional responses as we move through life. At a time when our world is under such threat, these threads of memory nudge us, reminding us of what we must hold, treasure, reclaim, rebuild: the smell of rain; the coolness of shadow beneath trees; the pull of the sea; the cry of a bird in the night.”

Likewise, Webster built her quartet on recurring snatches of melody, rhythmic fragments, overlapping textures and abrupt interruptions, interwoven and accumulating throughout the course of the work.

The words of the title come from the poem ‘Fields in Midsummer’ by New Zealand poet, Ruth Dallas.

This Memory of Earth by Louise Webster was commissioned and premiered by the New Zealand String Quartet in 2020.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Producer / Engineer: Darryl Stack

Technical assistant: Alex Harmer

Music Alive / Sound Lounge producer: Ryan Smith

Recorded at the Great Hall, Arts Centre, Christchurch.

The 2022 Asian Composer’s League Festival took place in Ōtautahi/Christchurch.

This Festival is held in a different country in the Asia-Pacific region every one to two years, and features music by innovative Asia-Pacific composers, written predominantly in the last decade, performed by many of New Zealand’s top performers and ensembles. 2022 was Aotearoa’s turn to host the festival again, and it was held in conjunction with the ISCM World New Music Days Festival, the first time this international festival has been held here.

First broadcast in Sound Lounge on RNZ Concert.