Mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway and the Amernet String Quartet will premiere Bowdoin composer Vineet Shende’s new song cycle Thin Bits of Evidence in Studzinski Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9th. Other works on the program include Gabriela Ortiz’s Incan-based Balkaah, Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2 “Intimate Letters,” and Grieg’s String Quartet No. 2 in F Major.
Shende’s music is set to a prose poem series by poet Julie Gard, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, who wrote the series after her house was set on fire in an arson attempt by a disturbed neighbor. Gard explains that writing poetry was her coping mechanism in the aftermath of that event, which took place in North Dakota in 2006:
Writing is my way of processing experience and creating meaning out of chaos, and this fire was no different. Our neighbor had worked part-time at a thrift shop in town, and I went there one fall afternoon and filled a basket with objects that I felt drawn to in that moment, that connected in my gut to what had happened. At times I felt morbid to write about the fire, to dwell on it, but I also felt powerful whenever I picked up an object from that basket and composed a prose poem.
Many feelings came up as I wrote – anger at our neighbor, compassion for him, despair at his situation, and fear for my family’s safety. In my writing, I tried to let connections and emotions emerge. As I revised the pieces, I attempted to shape them into a series that told the story of what had happened and did not offer any easy answers, because I did not – and still do not – have any.
In setting Gard’s text, Shende musically represents those emergent connections and emotions with motives, textures, and timbres that mutate and develop over the course of the work’s eight movements.
Following Wednesday’s concert, Gard will present a reading of her works in Massachusetts Hall at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 10.