The winter Composers Collective took place at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, NY on February 13th and I was so excited to have a new piece premiered. In December, for this concert, I wrote Courtship, the first of a multiple movement piece called Twin Spirits, specifically for the viola duo Folie À Deux (fa2violas.com
), comprised of Nora Krohn and Nick Revel. In addition to being incredible performers and wonderfully professional, they are also engaged to be married. This fact settled on my mind as I began writing what I planned on being a long-term project that describes the different stages of love that a couple goes through.
Being a duo made of two of the same instrument presented an interesting challenge. Regardless of the lack of viola duo writing to refer to, common musical pairings tend to favor dissimilar instruments. The fact of having two violas meant tonality was similar (but not equal) and range the same, which required me to consider how to play with the voicings and techniques available. Luckily, I’d seen Folie À Deux at Fat Cat in the west village a few months prior and knew of the duo’s mastery.
Here’s the notes I wrote about the piece that I think describes the conclusion of this thought process:
The two parts for this music are designated Viola 1 and 2. But the parts are distinctly Female and Male, respectively. When performing this piece, the violists need not be opposite sex, but the roles should be evoked as best to the players’ ability. In terms of technique, it is suggested that the female part attempt to use more of the tip of the bow closer to the fingerboard, sounding more light and thinner, while the male part should attempt to use the frog of the bow more closer to the bridge, sounding heavier and a bit raspier.
In the instance of same-sex performers, Viola 1 should exude a more feminine feel and Viola 2 a more masculine feel. The choice of whom takes what role is up to the performers to decide. Some suggestions may be: the more deeper-toned viola should choose the male role; the smaller-sized viola of the pair should take the female role.
I feel they did a wonderful job exuding this idea throughout the piece. Have a listen: