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Katherine Balch's musica pyralis Premiered by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Feb. 18, 2024

The Pittsburgh Symphony, led by Manfred Honeck, performed the world premiere of Katherine Balch's musica pyralis on February 16 at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh with an additional performance on February 18

Balch notes: "Most of my music tries to filter the sights and sounds of my surrounding environment through the instruments I'm writing for, rather like a musical sieve. In musica pyralis, ["Music of the Firefly"], the orchestra sings the summer soundscape of my home in rural Connecticut, where, thanks to little light pollution, fireflies bashfully illuminate the nightly cacophony of frogs and crickets and many other little creatures. Nature is the best orchestrator – despite the saturated soundscape, each noise-maker can hear and be heard as they occupy distinct registral and timbral niches. I try to capture a glimpse of this miraculously transparent density in this (mostly) brisk concert opener, and set to song the gently omnipresent twinkle of the phontinus pyralis – the Common Eastern Firefly."

musica pyralis was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra through Amplifying Voices, a New Music USA initiative with funding in part from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, and the New York Philharmonic, Santa Rosa Symphony, Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, and Erie Philharmonic.

The New York Philharmonic will perform the New York premiere of musica pyralis under Manfred Honeck's baton on April 12-14 at David Geffen Hall.

On February 22, the London Sinfonietta, led by Jack Sheen, will perform the UK premiere of Balch's waste knot at the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room in London. Balch notes: "waste knot is a piece about leftovers and how to use them, a serenade to the lost or wasted time of this pandemic spell, to moments squandered by tangled spaces and the fickleness of memory. The text that guides the piece, by novelist Alexandra Kleeman, is an artifact of this period: scraps and sketches that will never be published but find a new home in musical abstraction."

Listen to Longleash perform different gravities (Mvt. 2 Fragile, sinking") (2023):

different gravities (Mvt. 2 "Fragile, sinking")

To learn more about Katherine Balch, visit

Katherine Balch
musica pyralis (2023)
for orchestra
2(2.pic).2.2.1.cbsn- vib, lg sus cym, med tri, lg tri, capiz shell (or glass) wind chimes; II. vib crot, s.d, bng, course ceramic tile, guiro; III. tub bells (2 oct), b.d, hi-hat, med sus cym, sm tri, guiro-hp(detuned).pno-str Woodwinds double on harmonicas of various tunings; see performance notes in score for details.

waste knot (2021)
for soprano, ensemble, and tape cassettes
1(pic).0.1(bcl).1- crot, wdbl, 2 resonant glass bottles, industrial chain, 2 sm terra cotta flower pots, deck of cards, sheet of bubble wrap, s.d, b.d, super ball mallet; II. cor, wdbl, 2 resonant glass bottles, industrial chain, 2 sm terra cotta flower pots, deck of cards, sheet of bubble wrap, s.d, b.d, super ball mallet)-pno-str(