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Julia Wolfe

Publisher: G. Schirmer

My Beautiful Scream (2003)
Publisher
Red Poppy
Category
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
2003
Duration
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



Performances
Date
Title
  • 30 JUN 2016
    Seattle, Washington
    Seattle Symphony
    Ludovic Morlot, conductor
  • 18 MAR 2016
    Cincinnati, OH
    Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
    Kronos Quartet; Louis Langrée, conductor
  • 19 MAR 2010
    My Beautiful Scream Country Premiere
    Dystopia Country Premiere
    Stadtcasino, Basel, Switzerland
    Basel Sinfonietta
    DoelenKwartet; Kasper de Roo, conductor

    Other Dates:
    21 March - Concertgebouw de Doelen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • 19 MAR 2010
    Switzerland
    Basel Sinfonietta

    Other Dates:
    21 March - Amsterdam, Concertgebouw
  • 21 APR 2007
    My Beautiful Scream New York Premiere
    Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
    Brooklyn Philharmonic
    Kronos Quartet
  • 06 AUG 2006
    Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music
    Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, CA
    Cabrillo Festival Orchestra
    Kronos Quartet; Marin Alsop, conductor
  • 16 MAY 2005
    My Beautiful Scream Country Premiere
    Dresden, Germany
    Dresdner Sinfoniker
    Kronos Quartet; Michael Helmrath, conductor

Reviews
...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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