Plush Earth in Four Pieces (2014) by Tonia Ko
for violin and piano
West Coast premiere

I. Part
II. Jewel
III. Part
IV. Mud

The day, a compunctious Sunday after a week of blizzards, had been part jewel, part mud. In the midst of my usual afternoon stroll through the small hilly town attached to the girls' college where I taught French literature, I had stopped to watch a family of brilliant icicles drip-dripping from the eaves of a frame house. So clear-cut were their pointed shadows on the white boards behind them that I was sure the shadows of the falling drops should be visible too. But they were not.

This evocative opening of the short story The Vane Sisters by Vladimir Nabokov is the entire poetic compass of my work Plush Earth in Four Pieces. I was interested in the dichotomy presented in "part jewel, part mud" and used each word as titles of the individual movements. The Part movements (I & III) are more abstract — simply a "part" for the duo to play — but they also depict a "coming apart" of the material over the course of their short durations. Jewel reminisces on the blizzards; Mud begins there but anticipates evaporation of meltwater. Although the four movements are distinct in character, they share many musical objects and gestures, exploring various aspects within Nabokov’s "compunctious Sunday". I translated his vivid imagery of a spring thaw to a single transformation occurring over the four movements: sharp, pointed articulations melt away into a sound world that is fluid and almost languid.

— T. K.    

[from program for January 30, 2017 concert]