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A Letter to My Students

Dear students,

I miss you all and hope that you are enjoying a productive semester! As part of my sabbatical project, I will be keeping a “practice blog” aimed at documenting my own progress and struggles as I study unaccompanied violin music by living composers.

Today’s post is a brief overview of what I will be doing while away. I have chosen to focus on works by three different composers: Karim Al-Zand, Richard Einhorn, and Michael Nyman. Karim Al-Zand, a professor of composition at my alma mater, Rice University, has written five capriccios for solo violin; each shows the influence of Paganini’s virtuosity while featuring a palette of contemporary sounds and colors. New York-based composer Richard Einhorn came to Pacific in 2012 when the Conservatory performed his work Voices of Light, a poignant composition inspired by the silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. I met Mr. Einhorn during his visit, and he subsequently sent me the music to his piece for unaccompanied violin, entitled Maxwell’s Demon No. 4. Minimalist English composer Michael Nyman is known for his operas and film scores, especially his score to the 1993 film The Piano. He also composed the score to Peter Greenaway's film A Zed and Two Noughts, excerpts of which he subsequently arranged for violinist Alexander Balanescu to perform. Originally written for an ensemble, the reduced score requires the violinist to play challenging double and triple stops. He titled this arrangement Zoo Caprices, and the movements have unusual titles, such as "The Lady in the Red Hat" and "Vermeer's Wife Watches Prawns."

In order to continue to grow musically, it is vital for us to find sources of inspiration and new ideas; inspiration can be found in many forms, such as learning a new work, receiving feedback from another musician, or listening to other musicians. With that in mind, I will be traveling to New York and Houston in April in order to play for Karim Al-Zand and Richard Einhorn. I will document my progress in these endeavors through this blog. In each post, I will focus on a different topic that will be applicable to your own work as well.


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