A Gauze of Misted Silver


for harp and string quartet (2002)





11 min.


harp and string quartet

Program Notes

Venus Transiens
Tell me,
Was Venus more beautiful
Than you are,
When she topped
The crinkled waves,
Drifting shoreward
On her plaited shell?
Was Botticelli’s vision
Fairer than mine;
And were the painted rosebuds
He tossed his lady,
Of better worth
Than the words I blow about you
To cover your too great loveliness
As with a gauze
Of misted silver?

For me,
You stand poised
In the blue and buoyant air,
Cinctured by bright winds,
Treading the sunlight.
And the waves which precede you
Ripple and stir
The sands at my feet.

-Amy Lowell

A Gauze of Misted Silver takes its title from the Amy Lowell poem Venus Transiens.  I try to capture some of the sepia-toned elegance of the poem, but the reference, however, goes deeper still.  Each of the outer movements is a word-for-word setting of the text. The second movement stands in notable contrast to the other.  Rather than a primarily melodic work, it is primary rhythmic, with overlapping ostinati forever evolving in complex patterns. The first draft of this movement used an African thumb piano formula.  Although I later replaced it with an original pattern, it retains a similar sensibility. In the central section, the strings strum their instruments like guitars. The complexity of the rhythms gives the effect of a single guitar player standing in the old section of an island city, surrounded by stone walls.  The echoes reflect back to create a complex, yet soothing counterpoint.

Justin Merritt Music

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.

His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.

He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.

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