Watch & Listen
Select performances highlighting the work of David Ludwig
The Anchoress (Large Ensemble)
Soprano Hyunah Yu, the PRISM Quartet, and Piffaro, The Renaissance Band present a new one-woman monodrama that combines voice with modern saxophones and period instruments, inspired by a real historical phenomenon: the medieval Christians (mostly women) who became “living saints” by sequestering themselves in permanently sealed “anchorholds” (cells) attached to churches. The Anchoress “conjures a time of medieval mysticism, but the social dynamic it highlights—one that honors women only by relegating them—is not bound by any era” (The New Yorker). This monodrama, created by poet Katie Ford and composer David Serkin Ludwig, is a work of deep meaning enriched by "unusual, if not unique... effect[s] made beautiful" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Pangaea (Piano Concerto)
“Pangæa” was the single huge continent on earth encompassed by one vast ocean over two hundred million years ago–eons before dinosaurs, much less humans. It was an entirely different planet than one we’d recognize today, lush with life of another world. My piece for Anne Marie McDermott and Bravo! Vail explores this world and the wondrous creatures that inhabited it; a kind of “Carnival of the [Prehistoric] Animals.” The music begins in the depths of the Panthalassa ocean that surrounded the earth, rises up, and continues in the second movement inspired by the abundant life of the Pangæa super-continent.
Aria Fantasy (Piano quartet)
“Aria Fantasy” draws its inspiration from the opening (and closing) aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations; though it does not sound like Bach’s music (with a few notable exceptions). It is a different approach to variations on this variation theme; each section of the aria is transformed and deconstructed throughout to create new patterns and textures of sound. The piece was commissioned by the Ravinia Steans Institute on the occasion of their 25th Anniversary.
JOSQUIN MICROLUDES (SAX QT)
I am often inspired by great music of the past, and much of my composing these days involves taking the clay from an older piece and reworking it into my own new musical sculpture. “Josquin Microludes” is a set of miniatures that incorporates Josquin’s “Mille Regretz” into its musical language. Each miniature features this famous “chanson” framed by some variation or transmutation of it. The piece is played continuously, as if channel surfing between ancient music and contemporary sounds. I thought the medium of the saxophone quartet would be fitting for this project that is based on a choral work, as it is its own choir of voices, sustained by breath and line.
Josquin Microludes was written for the PRSIM Quartet
FANFARE FOR SAM (ORCHESTRA)
I set out to write Fanfare for Sam as a tribute to Samuel Barber, commissioned but the Curtis Institute to celebrate its 80th year.
The music begins out of tuning the “A”—the primal sound of an orchestra, like a prehistoric call to order. This sound grows into an explosive moment where a held Bb emerges from the mass, echoing the first note of theAdagio for Strings. As Barber’s work does, my Fanfare returns to that note as a way to center the music and introduce each section of the piece. Following the first held notes are webs of indeterminate patterns and canons with instruments in close imitation, one on top of the other. Romantic melodies and harmonies give way to big crescendos of brass and percussion, as fanfares are wont to do.
Pale Blue Dot (String Quartet)
I first heard about the Voyager probes as a kid, launched thirty-six years ago...In 1990, the visionary astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, asked NASA to turn Voyager around and take a deep space portrait of Earth looking back on us as it was leaving the solar system from six billion miles away. The photo is titled “Pale Blue Dot” and Dr. Sagan wrote beautifully about it this picture of Earth from deep space: '...on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam'"
Pale Blue Dot was commissioned by the Caramoor International Music Festival, on behalf of the Dover Quartet, for A String Quartet Library for the 21st Century. World Premiere: July 11, 2014 at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
PICTUres from the floating world (Bassoon Concerto)
I wrote “Pictures from the Floating World” for Daniel Matsukawa and the Philadelphia Orchestra led by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Thinking about the floating lines of the bassoon led to thoughts of the Japanese art tradition of Ukiyo-e print making (the “floating world” of our every day life), which led me to think of Debussy, who became obsessed with prints that he saw at the World Exhibition of 1881. And this is the process by which many of my pieces get written...I am especially interested in the intersection of cultures, and Debussy’s fascination with Japanese art is likewise fascinating to me.I am especially interested in the intersection of cultures, and Debussy’s fascination with Japanese art is likewise fascinating to me.
THE NEW COLOSSUS (SATB CHOIR)
"The New Colossus” was written for conductor Judith Clurman and the Todi music singers. Ms. Clurman recommended that I set the poem by Emma Lazarus that is at the site of the Statue of Liberty. On reading these words, I was very moved by the sentiment of welcome that Lazarus–herself an immigrant–conveys in the message: “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” And it is not just some people that the Statue welcomes, but everyone–even the “wretched refuse.” This to me was the true spirit of the United States embodied in poetry: our strength in diversity and tolerance. I wrote the work soon after 9/11, and because of that, the words of the poet were particularly poignant to me.
The piece begins in somber unison and remains in that setting, like chant, as the poet compares the Statue of Liberty to the Colossus of Rhodes from ancient Greece. It is not like the Colossus, she notes, in that it is not meant to be an imposing figure but instead the embracing “mother of exiles.” At the most famous lines the music opens up into harmony until the end, repeating the words “I lift my lamp, beside the Golden Door”–to the port of entry of a nation of immigrants.
VIRTUOSITY (STRING ORCHESTRA)
"The piece is built on the format of the Baroque Concertino, with parts for a core group of soloists surrounded by a larger ensemble. The first micro concerto is for two violins (like the Baroque trio), and follows with solo viola, cello, and contrabass, with some movements eliding into each other without pause. The final movement is a concerto for the whole orchestra, including a double fugue for the ensemble and then soloists in the middle of it (the fugue as a form is about a kind of compositional virtuosity that has challenged composers for hundreds of years).
“Virtuosity” was written for ECCO to be premiered at the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, and was commissioned by seventy-nine individuals from our musical community through an Indiegogo campaign that the festival initiated and managed. For a composer to have this kind of support and connection from so many people is as meaningful as it gets, and–in the end–the reason we make music in the first place.