Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Momenta Quartet will perform an eclectic concert this Saturday at 8:00 in Lang Concert Hall, including the world premiere of “Intelligent Design,” by Daniel Koontz. The quartet, including alum Joanne Lin ’98, will also perform works by Haydn, Kurtag, and Lutoslawski.
Koontz is the recipient of this year’s Stott Program commission. The award goes to a composer at the beginning of his or her career, commissioning an original piece of music to be performed by a professional ensemble including Swarthmore students or alumni, here on campus. The fund was established by Eugene M. Lang in 1997 on Lang Music Building’s 25th anniversary, to celebrate Gil and Mary Roelof Stott’s contribution to the Swarthmore community.
Koontz teaches music at Southampton College, and was nominated for the competition by the State University of New York at Stony Brook’s music department, where he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. “Intelligent Design” is, according to its composer, a spontaneous and improvisatory-sounding piece. “I imagined the sound as if it were located in one area on the edge of a spinning wheel, passing in and out of view…after this, it is as if we zoom in and apprehend the sound more closely and continuously,” the composer said.
The other pieces on the program include are String Quartet (1965), by Witold Lutoslawski, an adventerous twentieth-century Polish composer. The piece is aleatoric, meaning that the notation is untraditional or ambiguous, and can lead to highly individual and spontaneous performances. The Kurtag piece, “Officium Breve in Memoriam Andrae Szervanskzy,” is a 1989 work by the Romanian composer memorializing his mentor. The final piece on the program is a 1797 Haydn string quartet that will surely surprise the ears after an evening of 20th century music.
The Momenta Quartet is comprised of Miranda Cuckson and Anneliesa Place, violins, Stephanie Griffin, viola, and Joanne Lin, cello. They specialize in new music, some of which they have recorded, and are the ensemble in residence at Temple University.