Bird Catching From Above is the caption for an 1813 illustration by John Heaviside Clark. The drawing depicts a Scotsman dangling perilously from a long rope high above jagged seaside cliffs. With a large net in his hands and his kilt waving in the high winds, he dangles, poised to snatch one of hundreds of birds as they swoop into their nests on the cliff side.
Two years ago, I spotted a framed print of this illustration on the wall of a dilapidated country home in Westchester County, NY. Hanging amidst regal portraits and sprawling landscapes, the (somewhat comical) absurdity of the scenario depicted in this illustration initially caught my eye. The image stuck with me and, after a bit of research, I found that this was indeed a very real (and very dangerous) method of hunting. I began to consider the complexity of what the hunter could be thinking and feeling at that precarious moment and decided to base the four movements of this piece on four possible states of mind.
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Approximate duration: 20 min.
Commissioned for the Lydian String Quartet at Brandeis University by the 2015 Lydian String Quartet Commission Prize, generously funded by a gift from Anonymous Donors.
Premiered on April 9, 2016.