Composer creates musical piece inspired by Aqua Tower

April 18, 2011

Aqua Tower, the tall beauty with the undulating balconies has become an instant architectural celebrity since its completion in 2009; the subject of accolades, the winner of honors--and now the inspiration for Aqua, a string quartet musical piece written by New York composer Harold Meltzer who will oversee the composition's Chicago premiere next week.

Meltzer got the idea for the piece after seeing photographs of Aqua last year in The New Yorker.

"I was instantly mesmerized," Meltzer said. "I kept looking at the pictures." He then downloaded more images from the internet, some showing the whole building; others showing details of the balconies. The photographs--and the order in which he downloaded them--inform the piece, he said.

Meltzer has never seen Aqua in person, but will likely get his chance when he visits the city April 27. That's when the Avalon String Quartet will perform Meltzer's Aqua as part of the ensemble's American Voices concert at the Merit School of Music at 38 South Peoria. It will be the first time Aqua has been performed in Chicago.

Architect Jeanne Gang, whose firm, Studio/Gang designed Aqua said she recently heard about Aqua. "I am so excited to listen to the piece" and wants to attend the concert to hear firsthand, she said.

So what does the piece sound like? Meltzer said the composition takes its cues from the building's design and the "amazing way the line of the building is mediated by all those undulations." He said "there is a series of 'curves' in the first part of the piece. The second piece is one big curve--like seeing one of those [balconies] up close."

The 44-year-old composer has been previously inspired by architecture. He wrote Brion after seeing architect Carlos Scarpa's modernist Brion Cemetery in San Vito d'Altivole, Italy. The piece was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. Here are samples of it on Amazon.

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