Images from a Closed Ward
for string quartet(2010)
|Commissioned by the Blair String Quartet
|February 17, 2012; Nashville, TN; Blair String Quartet
|2 violins, viola, cello
|Four scores are required for performance, in addition to individual parts for movement 11 only.
I first came into contact with artist Michael Mazur's work in 2000, while I was living in Italy. An exhibition of Mazur's The Inferno of Dante, a series of forty-one etchings with accompanying texts of Dante translated into English by Robert Pinksy, was being shown at the American Academy in Rome. Viewing the collection of etchings was a deeply moving experience. Soon after meeting we became friends, and Mazur would often stop by the space I used to work in where I would then play through for him some of my own work at the piano. Almost a decade later, I began work on a string quartet; the catalyst for which was an encounter the previous year with two groups of etchings done by Mazur in the early 1960s: the Closed Ward and Locked Ward series. The images are devastating ones. Why I was attracted to them, how they resonated with and why they haunted me, are for reasons that remain personal. That said, the fact that visual art became something of an ignition point was a very new experience for me. As the summer of 2009 wound down, I had formulated the broad outlines of the work enough that I decided it would be a good time to re-connect with Mazur, with whom I had not spoken in some time. I was extremely excited at the prospect of seeing him again, and sharing the terrain of this new quartet. I felt that he would be surprised and pleased that something he had done had a hand in the shaping of this new work. The day before I planned to contact him, I read of his untimely death in a Sunday newspaper.
– Michael Hersch, October 2010