2015 (20:00)
String quartet
Commissioned by The Letter String Quartet

Audio: Blood by Wally Gunn, performed by Escher String Quartet, 2015.

Blood (20:00)
i. heart is racing (05:45)

ii. old wound (07:15)
iii. sangfroid (07:00)

Program Note
This piece originated with a nonmusical idea. I wanted to look at blood. This substance which is so essential to us has long provided a wealth of inspiration to artists and storytellers, inspiring myths and legends, and providing rich imagery for visual and textual metaphors that describe our moods, our emotions, our personalities, our cultures, our very selves. I wondered if the language used to describe the physiology of blood—the science rather than the poetry—could be harnessed to generate musical ideas. I imagined that perhaps, musically, the piece could explore cycles and circularity, utilizing cells which travel through vessels, with each movement coursing at a different rate, in a sometimes regular, sometimes irregular pulse. The piece was initially devised utilizing patterns and processes, in an homage to the biological mechanisms which manufacture and maintain our blood. But once I had established the basic musical material, it revealed itself to be more emotionally potent than I had anticipated, full of feeling, and thus straying back to the poetic and metaphoric. Rather than resist, I tried to highlight the emotion and feeling in it, with the aim of creating soundworlds which, I hope, reflect three different states—high anxious excitement, sorrowful longing, cool composure—states to which our blood-pumping muscle, the heart, is so reactive. This piece was commissioned by The Letter String Quartet, and it was a great honor to write for them. A draft of the piece was workshopped in March 2016 at the Princeton Sound Kitchen in Princeton, New Jersey, with the extraordinary Escher String Quartet, to whom I am very grateful. The piece is dedicated to the scientists and medical practitioners who each day work hard to make discoveries that illuminate our understanding of our blood and our genes, saving ever more lives from sicknesses and deaths that were once mysterious.
– WG, 2016

The Letter String Quartet
Zoë Barry, cello
Biddy Connor, viola
Steph O’Hara, violin
Lizzy Welsh, violin

Blood . Catalogue 121 . Copyright © Wally Gunn . September 2015