In 2016 I was commissioned by the extraordinarily versatile artist, scholar and violinist Michiko Theurer to contribute to a collaborative multi-artform project called Circling the Waves, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s strikingly original novel The Waves. Six composers were commissioned to write miniatures in response to five paintings by Michiko, which she has now performed five times internationally. You can listen to all the music, view each painting, and learn more about the process of creating Circling the Waves on the website via clicking the image above, or the button below.

In the novel The Waves, we hear the inner monologues of six characters from childhood to old age, complete with their flights of fancy, their moments of self-pity, grandiosity, love, regret, and reflections on friendship, interspersed by several exquisite interludes describing the sun’s motion through the sky on a single day. Michiko wanted to recreate this conversation as a concert experience, incorporating the music of six different composers and several of her own paintings in a remarkably insightful reflection on the themes of the novel.

The first of my three miniatures, Chrysalis contrasts a gently falling melody with a more flighty rising one. They morph into different shapes and colors freely. The second, The Stone is a study in different speeds morphing into one another - a fast trill turns into a lilting rhythm and back. The third, Moths is a more volatile dance. 

Much of the piece is about ideas blending and morphing - something that I very much admire about Woolf's writing - it has such a changeable, iridescent, gossamer surface, but under that surface, it is strong, profound, and true to real life.

As a proud participant of this project, and a believer in original and inventive programming, I can only applaud this project for its daring and the cohesiveness of its concept, and hope that this may shine the way for future presentations of new music and visual art side by side.

Michael Small, 2018

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