Early in my compositional career, I had written a violin quartet for the ladies in MoVE (the Modern Violin Ensemble) and Livia Sohn was one of the violinists. Long before then we had studied at Juilliard during the same time, and I was always a fan of her playing and her powerful stage presence. When I had heard that she had taken a break from playing the violin after struggling with focal dystonia, I offered to write a piece in a way that was comfortable for her when she was ready.
When I got the email that she was ready to get back to playing in time for Spoleto 2021, I was overjoyed. We talked about what specific actions in her fingers we should avoid, and I wrote the piece with those enabling constraints. I wrote for myself and loop pedal for several years before writing for other people, and the machine had its limitations which I had to work around – so I was used to employing such measures.
I find many parallels between writing this piece and our pandemic experience – we have a new set of limitations, but that does not mean we can’t pivot and live well in those limitations.
It just takes a bit of ingenuity, patience, and love.