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Delgani String Quartet’s latest concert explores the intersection of music and nature

Delgani String Quartet’s latest concert explores the intersection of music and nature

(Above: Musicians of the Delgani String Quartet include, from left, Kimberlee Uwate, Anthea Kreston, Jannie Wei, and Eric Alterman.)

By Randi Bjornstad

The featured work in the latest concert of the Delgani String Quartet’s seventh season is Wind in High Places by John Luther Adams, in which the composer explores his idea of the connection between music and the natural world.

Adams, who wrote the piece in Alaska, examines that relationship by using only open strings  — bowing or plucking a string without modifying it with sound with the fingers of the other hand — while at the same time introducing a natural harmonic by applying a merely light touch to the string to augment the sound.

His idea for this music came from the Aeolian harp, which takes its name from Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds,  an instrument which creates sound from air moving across strings. The Aeolian harp can be as simple as a small rectangular box strung loosely with strings of the same length but varying thicknesses, all tuned to the same pitch. Because of the variation in thickness, when they vibrate, the strings create overtones of the same note.

Or it can be huge. Also called the wind harp, in many places the concept has been rendered as large sculptural installations, from one that looks like a harp installed on a bluff above the Irish coast to another, massive metal version atop a windy hill in South San Francisco, Calif., that calls to mind the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Adams, 69, grew up in Mississippi and started his musical career in his teens as a drummer in rock bands. He graduated from the California Institute of the Arts and began  a career in environmental protection, which took him to Alaska, where he lived from 1978 to 2014. While there, he was timpanist and principal percussionist with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra, from 1982 to 1989. He has written for many genres of music, including children’s theater, film and television, voice, acoustical instruments, and electronics.

His orchestral composition, Become Ocean, won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2014.

The other compositions on the Wind in High Places program also have been inspired by nature expressed in musical form. In an A-minor quartet late in his career, Ludwig van Beethoven gives thanks for his recovery from a near-fatal illness in a piece called Song of Holy Thanksgiving. Benjamin Britten’s contribution is String Quartet No. 1 in D major, which he wrote in 1941 while in California but homesick for the countryside of his native England.

Delgani String Quartet — Wind in High Places

When and where:
  • Corvallis — 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 28, First Presbyterian Church 114 SW Eighth St.
  • Salem — 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29, Unitarian Universalist Church, 5090 Center St. N
  • Eugene — 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30, First Church of Christ Scientist, 1390 Pearl St. (also livestream at www.delgani.org/live/)
  • Eugene — 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 1, First Church of Christ Scientist, 1390 Pearl St. (also livestream at www.delgani.org/live/)
  • Portland — 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3, Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave.

Quartet members: Anthea Kreston and Jannie Wei, violin; Kimberlee Uwate, viola; Eric Alterman, cello

Tickets: $28 general admission, $5 for students, available online at delgani.org; ticket packages also available

Covid protocol:

  • All audience members ages 12 and older are required to show proof of vaccination at the door.

  • Negative tests are not accepted in lieu of proof of vaccination.

  • All audience members are required to wear a mask at all times while inside the performance venue.

Information: delgani.org

 

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