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Julia Wolfe

Publisher: G. Schirmer

My Beautiful Scream (2003)
Red Poppy
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
25 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
amplified string quartet
Programme Note
Julia Wolfe My Beautiful Scream (2003)
I began writing My Beautiful Scream shortly after 9/11. I live in downtown Manhattan not far from where the towers stood. At night I would have this strange sensation that I was going to die. In general my life was very beautiful – my kids were at ages that were particularly magical. So it was this strange existence of living in beauty and having the sensation of a long drawn out internal scream.

The piece for the Kronos Quartet and orchestra is in a way a nonconcerto for string quartet. The quartet begins quiet, personal, and fine. The orchestra is more violent, menacing, and strident. But the quartet, which is amplified, gradually emerges to ride above the orchestra in a loud and emotional frenzy. The overall arch is a scream, in slow motion, beginning with the breath that one takes and reaching out to the extremity of the human cry. I have never taken the arch of a scream as a “form” before. Screams may be present in my music, but they happen suddenly without warning, frenetic and hyper. My Beautiful Scream demanded a more gradual unfolding – the unraveling of my own slow motion scream.

The piece was a co-commission by Orchestre National de France, the Basel Sinfonietta, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. The work was premiered in February 2004 at Festival Presence in Paris.

—Julia Wolfe

...Julia Wolfe composed My Beautiful Scream as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks, but instead of writing a memorial work or a brooding philosophical piece, she went with pure gut instinct: her piece is an intensely stylized, intricately detailed, elongated slow-motion scream. The Kronos and the Brooklyn players rendered the 25-minute work with a patient intensity that brought out its searing, elemental pain, yet kept that pain at a distance, rendering it observable and affecting...
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times,24/04/2007
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