Duration: 6 minutes
    Instrumentation: Viola and tape
    Commissioned by Nadia Sirota
    Premiered by Nadia Sirota (viola) on Nov. 19, 2008, at the MATA Festival in Brooklyn, N.Y.
    Copyright/publisher information: Marcos Balter

    About the piece:

    Inspired by Ukrainian-Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector’s 1973 novel, The Stream of Life, Balter’s Live Water offers an imaginative meditation on the author’s linguistic innovations and breathless, stream-of-consciousness narrative. “The novel’s main ideas deal with the fluidity and fleetingness of time, multiplicity of self, and our incapacity to fully express our own essence with language,” Marcos Balter says. “The structure of The Stream of Life is very musical, with motifs often coming back and being developed in an almost systematic way — as if suggesting musical form.”

    Written for viola and tape, Live Water combines controlled notation and guided improvisation to create a carefully constructed framework that contains multiple layers within a unified flow. Excerpts from the book serve as the guiding entrances for musical gestures that, once activated, exist by themselves in their own time frame. These fragmented quotes, which are not meant to be fully audible, weave through the textures of the viola in hushed tones, so that the meaning, as Balter puts it, “pops in and out of one’s view.”

    The piece reflects the tremendous depth and obscure beauty of Lispector’s prose by creating a sense of linearity out of several abbreviated episodes. “Rather than suggesting a sectional structure, these episodes are almost like voice-off in a film, a simultaneous commentary on a narrative that is still unfolding,” Balter explains. “At times, they comment on its past; at others, they foresee its trajectory.”

    Live Water was commissioned by NYC-based violist Nadia Sirota and premiered at Brooklyn’s MATA Festival in September 2007. The work also is featured on Sirota’s debut album, first things first (New Amsterdam), chosen by the New York Times as one of the top classical music recordings of 2009.

    About the composer:

    Praised by the Chicago Tribune as “minutely crafted” and “utterly lovely” and the New York Times as “whimsical” and “surreal,” the music of Brazilian composer Marcos Balter is at once emotionally visceral and intellectually complex, primarily rooted in experimental manipulations of timbre and hyper-dramatization of live performance. His works have been featured worldwide in venues such as the Köln Philharmonie, the French Academy at Villa Medici, New World Symphony Center, Park Avenue Armory, Teatro de Madrid, Tokyo Bunka Kaykan, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Teatro Amazonas, Le Poison Rouge and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. Recent festival appearances include those at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Ecstatic Music Festival, Look & Listen, Acht Brücken, Aldeburgh Music Festival, Lockenhaus Kammermusikfestival, Aspen, ACO’s SONiC Festival, Frankfurter Gesellschaft für Neue Musik, Darmstadt Ferienkurse, Color Field, Musica Nova and MATA’s Interval Series. Past honors include commissions from Meet the Composer, Chamber Music America, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, the Holland/America Music Society, the MacArthur Foundation and the Art Institute of Chicago; fellowships from the Tanglewood Music Center/Leonard Bernstein Foundation, and Civitella Ranieri Foundation, as well as first prizes in several national and international composition competitions.

    Balter was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in music composition this spring and will spend 2013/14 on sabbatical as director of the music composition program at Columbia College Chicago, during which time he completed a range of commissions, including a new orchestral work for the American Composers Orchestra (Carnegie Hall, April 2014), a new work for choir and string orchestra for the Camerata de Curitiba (Bienal Música Hoje, August 2013), a new multimedia work for Claire Chase and Svet Stoyanov (Mount Tremper, July 2013) and a new chamber work for the International Contemporary Ensemble (Los Angeles Contemporary Arts Museum, June 2013).

    Upcoming guest residencies include the 2013 Bienal Musica Hoje and at the 2013 Mount Tremper Music Festival. Balter’s work also will be be featured in upcoming commercial albums by indie rock band Deerhoof with Ensemble Dal Niente, the Spektral Quartet, flutist Claire Chase, percussionist Samuel Solomon, saxophonist Ryan Muncy, bassoonist Rebekah Heller and soprano Amanda DeBoer; performances by Mivos Quartet, Anubis Saxophone Quartet, ensemble cross.art, violist Nadia Sirota and others in venues in North and South America, Europe and Asia, as well as composition lectures, guest concerts,and master classes in several institutions and music festivals in North and South America.

    Recent collaborators include the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Orquestra Experimental da Amazonas Filarmonica, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Chicago Q Ensemble, tenor Peter Tantsits, soprano Tony Arnold, Third Coast Percussion, Ensemble SurPlus, Fonema Ensemble and Anaphora Ensemble, and conductors Steven Schick, Cliff Colnot, Scott Voyles, Eric Hewitt, Michael Lewanski, Federico Sardella and Mathew Kasper.

    Balter graduated with school and departmental honors at Northwestern University where his main teachers were Augusta Read Thomas, Amy Williams and Jay Alan Yim. Guest instructors in master classes and festivals include Louis Andriessen, Georges Aperghis, George Benjamin, Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, Oliver Knussen, Tristan Murail, Enno Poppe, Bernard Rands, Wolfgang Rihm and Kaija Saariaho.

    More information at marcosbalter.com.