GAEA: Concerto for Amplified Viola and Chamber Orchestra

Premiered May 25, 2023

Miller Theatre at Columbia University
Jessica Meyer, composer & violist
The Orchestra of the League of Composers
Louis Karchin, Music Director and Conductor

Commissioned by the Orchestra of the League of Composers


Solo Viola

Clarinet in B-flat
Bass Clarinet

Horn in F
Trumpet in B-flat

Percussion 1 (timpani, bass drum *shared with Perc 2*, sus cymbal, wood block)

Percussion 2 (2 metal “anvil” pipes, bowed vibraphone, marimba, snare drum, glockenspiel, tam-tam, bass drum)

Violin 1
Violin 2
Bass (with C extension)

Viola/piano version available Fall 2024


I have wanted to write a viola concerto for myself for some time now. The biggest challenge for any violist is the constant struggle to acoustically compete with more “dimensionally correct” instruments like the violin and cello. It has long been known that if the viola were acoustically the proper size for its range, it would be too large to play like a violin but still too small to play like a cello. Usually, when a violist is in a solo role in front of an ensemble, one is playing fairly close to the bridge at all times just to be heard against the ensemble – even when a composer has taken great care to make the appropriate orchestrational choices.

When I started writing for myself and loop pedal after years of performing acoustic contemporary music, I discovered an entire vocabulary of fragile colors and expressive sounds simply because I was amplified. This concerto for amplified viola marries the wealth of colors and gestures spectral composers have developed throughout the 20th century, while also incorporating the virtuosity of baroque string playing, to tell the story of Gaea.

According to Hesiod’s version of Greek Mythology, Gaea was the goddess of the Earth and one of the primordial deities born at the dawn of creation (Chaos). All the heavenly gods were descended from her through her union with Uranus, but he was so jealous of his offspring (the Titans, the Cyclops, and the Hecatoncheires) that he kept shoving them back into Gaea’s womb. In great pain, she asks her children for help and Cronus comes to her aid to maim his father. Uranus’ blood falls into the sea and the goddess Aphrodite is born from the foam over the water where it fell. She rises from the waves on her shell and sails to the shore of the island of Cythera, introduced to the world with great fanfare.

Deep thanks to Louis Karchin and Lois Martin for their advocacy and to the fabulous musicians in the Orchestra of the League of Composers who have made new music in New York great for many years.