Libby Larsen

Amber (Variation)

Libby Larsen

Amber (Variation)

About the Piece

For Amber (Variation) I took as inspiration the image of a ripened field of grain, rolling and swaying in late -summer winds. It is an image deeply engrained in my childhood bones and one I escape into often.

To create a musical suggestion of this wheat field, I used two fragments from the melody America the Beautiful - “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies” (sol, mi, sol, re) and “for amber waves of grain” (mi, fa, sol, la, ti, sol) - and wove them into an aural image. I put two performance indications in the score - “delicately oscillating, lightly, legato throughout” and “dynamics should never exceed “P" – and invite the performer to use gradations of "p" (pp, ppp, pppp, etc.) to subtly bring out the two melodic fragments as they appear in the music.  I thought it might be beautiful and energizing in the moment of performance if I provide a score-in-color, a visualization which highlights the two fragments as they appear in the music’s texture. I used blue note heads for “Oh beautiful spacious skies” and amber note heads for “For amber waves of grain”.  The performer can choose to use the score-in-color or a score in traditional black and white notation.

About Libby Larsen

Libby Larsen (b. 1950, Wilmington, Delaware) is one of America’s most performed living composers.  She has composed over 500 works including orchestra, opera, vocal and chamber music, symphonic winds and band. Her work is widely recorded.

An advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973 Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum. Grammy Award winner and former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony. As Artistic Director of the John Duffy Institute for New Opera (2014-2020), she guides a faculty of practicing professional artists in nurturing and production of new opera by American Composers.  Larsen’s 2017 biography, Libby Larsen: Composing an American Life, Denise Von Glahn, author, is available from the University Illinois Press.

About Discovery Composers

As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents.  They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization.  Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor.  Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility.  In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far.  CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward".  I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities,  whom we felt we could easily move forward.

- Min Kwon