Pauline Kim Harris: Mine Alone for String Quartet (2019)

Pauline Kim Harris: Mine Alone for String Quartet (2019)

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November 7, 2019
World Premiere at Staller Arts Center
presented by Stony Brook University Department of Music on the 31st Annual Premieres! Concert.

This is from the second performance at ROULETTE – Brooklyn, New York on November 8, 2019.

Leo Quartet
Manaka Matsumoto, Liang Dong (Violins)
Hsuan Lee, Viola
Pin-hui Tsai, Cello

The title to Mine Alone is from a quote by Marc Chagall “Mine alone is the country of my soul.” It being my very first composition for string quartet, I was naturally drawn to and quote one of the most inspired works in the repertoire, Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132 as an introspective response to the joy and healing of music. It is a work that suggests the possibility of transcendence in the world as we exist in it.

It is said that Chagall saw his work as “not the dream of one people but of all humanity.” Beethoven’s Op. 132 was composed at the end of his life after surviving a near fatal illness. Also, it is important to take into account that it was during a time of his life when he had pretty much lost his hearing completely.

I specifically scored all the string parts in the highest registers of their instruments. Mine Alone begins by quoting the ending of the second movement of Beethoven’s quartet in dissonant canon. Each string part flutters in and out of fragmented, melodic relationship with each other. At one point, there is a firm realization when the four string lines come together in climatic chordal sweeps and swoons. All is consummated at the end into the ephemeral atmosphere of the eternal, everlasting?

Completed while in residence at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, Rhode Island, one might relate to a birdsong or two.

Mine alone
Is the country in my soul
I enter there without a passport
As if it is my home.
It sees my sadness
And my solitude
It lulls me to sleep
And covers me with a heavy perfume.

In me gardens bloom.
The flowers are my creations
The streets belong to me
But there are no houses,
They were destroyed in their infancy.
The inhabitants roam the air
In search of a home;
They dwell in my soul.

For this reason I smile
When my sun barely shines
Or cry
Like a light rain
In the night.

There was a time when I had two heads.
There was a time when these two faces
Covered themselves in an amorous dew
And dissolved into the perfume of a rose.

At present it seems to me
That even when I retreat
I press on
Toward a lofty portal
Behind which stretch out walls
Where sleep faint thunder
And shattered bolts of lightning.

Mine alone
Is the country found in my soul.

-Marc Chagall

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