Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Enigma Spektral Quartet
- Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977):
- 1Thorvaldsdottir: Enigma: I. —11:16
- 2Thorvaldsdottir: Enigma: II. —07:54
- 3Thorvaldsdottir: Enigma: III. —09:14
Info for Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Enigma
If you would, coax your mind back to a time when you believed ducking your head beneath the covers was ample defense against the bogeyman. Do you remember, in the haze of half-sleep, seeing something or someone in your room that didn’t belong? As you breathlessly flicked on the light, you were relieved to find it was only a chair lopsided with laundry, or a vacuum propped against the doorframe. That faint halo of light, surrounding this once sinister and now innocuous object, that is the penumbra – that permeable border between light and dark. This is the space where Enigma lives.
We’ve all been living in an in-between of sorts for the last year, haven’t we? Nothing quite as poetic as the blend of blinding light and unfathomable dark one encounters with an eclipse, an early touchstone for this composition it is worth noting. But we’ve done quite a bit of living in the grey area, which is maybe broader than we thought. The thing is, traveling to Virginia to record this album was in some ways the first glint of hope on the horizon...well...that there was still a horizon.
This album is the result of a multi-year alchemy between the singular writing of composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and the playing of three-time GRAMMY nominees Spektral Quartet. The first string quartet composed by Thorvaldsdottir, Enigma is simultaneously colossal and introspective, moving between heart-wrenching chord progressions and the scrapes and clicks of extended string techniques. A piece of profound emotional magnitude, Enigma provokes considerations of our relationship to the vast cosmos that surrounds us – and the infinite universe within. (Doyle Armbrust)
The music of Enigma is inspired by the notion of the “in-between”, juxtaposing flow and fragmentation. Pulsating stasis - the “whole”, an expanding and contracting fundament - is contrasted with fragmented materials - shadows of things that live as part of the whole. Harmonies emerge and evaporate or break into pieces in various ways, leaving traces of materials that project through different kinds of textures and nuances and gradually take on their own shape. Some return to the core, some remain apart. Throughout the piece, the perspective continuously moves between the two, the fundament and the fragmented shadows, but the focus is always their relationship - the “in-between”.
As with my music generally, the inspiration behind Enigma is not something I am trying to describe through the piece - to me, the qualities of the music are first and foremost musical. When I am inspired by a particular element or quality, it is because I perceive it as musically interesting, and the qualities I tend to be inspired by are often structural, like proportion and flow, as well as relationships of balance between details within a larger structure, and how to move in perspective between the two — the details and the unity of the whole.
“[Enigma] sounds like no string quartet you’ve ever heard… It’s wonderful work.” (Washington Post)
Since its inception, the Spektral Quartet has sought out the discourse between the great works of the traditional canon and those written this decade, this year, or this week. Creating connections across centuries, the group further invites its listeners in with charismatic deliveries, interactive concert formats, an up-close atmosphere, and bold, inquisitive programming.
The ensemble is regarded for its forward-thinking endeavors including the Mobile Miniatures project, which rallied more than forty composers from across the US including David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly and Shulamit Ran to write ringtone-length pieces for download to mobile devices. In addition to finding vehicles for bringing classical music into everyday life, the Spektral Quartet prioritizes immersion and inclusivity through close-proximity seating and delivers the majority of its Chicago concerts in vibrant, unconventional venues.
As ardent advocates for composers within its home city, the group recorded its debut album, Chambers (Parlour Tapes+), in 2013 featuring works by Hans Thomalla, Marcos Balter, LJ White, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, and Ben Hjertmann. That same season saw the release of the South American jazz and tango-themed From This Point Forward (Azica Records), with bandoneon/accordion virtuoso Julien Labro and saxophone luminary Miguel Zenón. Spektral Quartet appears on Swiss violin soloist Rachel Kolly d’Alba’s 2015 record, Fin de siècle (Aparté), performing Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet and will be featured on upcoming albums from composers Augusta Read Thomas and Ryan Ingebritsen. January 2016 marks the unveiling of the group’s fourth full-length album, Serious Business (Sono Luminus), an illumination of humor in classical music including Josef Haydn’s “The Joke” quartet and inventive new commissions from Dave Reminick, Sky Macklay, and Chris Fisher-Lochhead.
Keen on frequently treading outside the lines of classical music, Spektral Quartet partnered with avant-pop artist Julia Holter in the 2014/15 season for composer Alex Temple’s Behind the Wallpaper at the Ecstatic Music Festival in NYC and the Liquid Music series in St. Paul, MN. In 2015/16, the ensemble invigorates its ongoing collaboration with Julien Labro, and will team up with GRAMMY-winning jazz artist Billy Childs for the esteemed Jazz at the Logan series at the University of Chicago.
Titled UP CLOSE, the Spektral Quartet’s 2015/16 season is studded with new works from composers like Hans Thomalla, Morgan Krauss, Mikel Kuehn, Ryan Ingebritsen, Tomas Gueglio Saccone, and Anthony Cheung as well as cornerstones of the string quartet repertoire by Beethoven, Schubert, Prokofiev, Mendelssohn, and Bartók. Season highlights on the road include a residency with the JACK Quartet at Stanford University, a teaching residency at the New World Symphony, and an appearance with flutist Claire Chase on the University of Maryland's Common Tone series.
The Spektral Quartet proudly serves as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago.