What Inspired the 2023–24 Fellows’ World Premieres?

We asked our 2023–24 fellows—Maria Emiliano, Ilaria Hawley, Haeon Lee, Peyton Nelesen, Marvel Roth, and Hannah Wolkowitz—what inspired the pieces they have been working on with their mentors this year for Kronos Quartet. Read on to see where they each found inspiration and hear the world premieres of their new string quartets live June 20–22 in San Francsico.

What inspired you to write your new piece?

Maria Emiliano: A big inspiration that I had for writing this piece was bringing in all types of cultural aspects that mean a lot to me and experimenting with different sounds like taking apart Cuban claves, Venezuelan bandolas from certain genres and putting it all together. For “Bonito…’E” I focused on taking these four instruments and transforming them into something else and playing around with them.

Ilaria Hawley: My piece “Some Things Cosmic” is inspired by a series of dreams I was having about space, stars, and all things unknown. I wanted to create a story through that. A challenge I set for myself was making the animation to go along with it. Even more challenging was making the video hand drawn.

Haeon Lee: The piece I wrote for Kronos Quartet is titled “dusting off.” I would encourage listeners to think of the word “recharge,” or “recharging” while listening, which actually appears in the score to describe a special moment in the piece. Just as the music energizes itself and drives up and away with the momentum the quartet gives it, I hope listeners may be able to dust off and enjoy the vibrancy of new beginnings with this piece.

Peyton Nelesen: The inspiration for “Tempus” arose from a fascination with the multifaceted nature of time and its ability to manifest in various shapes and forms. Time can feel meditative or urgent. Introspective or fleeting. Cyclical or linear. In this composition, I strive to capture these various personalities of time.

Marvel Roth: My new electro-acoustic composition for Kronos Quartet, “lens,” was inspired by my hometown of Los Angeles, California. I observed how Hollywood media and tabloids have the potential to distort tangible reality, and worked to capture these ideas of distortion through my Los Angeles found sounds and string writing. The minimalist purity of the initial aspects of the composition slowly decay into chaos, distorted and unrecognizable. Working with electronics and found-sound was a new compositional experience for me.

Hannah Wolkowitz: I write music to be understood—and help the audience gain understanding through interactive and programmatic elements. So, I created a piece that has narration, audience interaction and that can be played 4 different ways. “An Ocean Escapade” is inspired by Choose Your Own Adventure books; books that allow the reader to become the main character and make choices that determine the plot’s outcome.