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luminous animal (2020) 
for Mivos Quartet


program notes


This piece was inspired by Tony Moffeit’s poem, luminous animal (1989). First reading this, I was struck by the music in his verse, the metaphorical language and the alchemical perception of human struggle. Inspired by the dark American underbelly, Moffeit writes this hommage to the shadowy places in our lives, to our loneliness, as the origin of our creative energy, or luminosity. He makes the parallel with bioluminescent organisms that emit light in the deepest, darkest places. "There is only one answer: to go deeper into the heart of the wound to go deeper into the heart of the blues…like a luminous animal you glow from the fire of the pulse in your veins” (Moffeit). I used some of the metaphors and thematic material in the poem as I wrote this piece. A sense of shining, flickering light was the idea in the opening section. The strings hover over an enclosed harmonic space which is pierced intermittently by delicate accents, suggesting brief flashes of light. The viola solo later on in the piece was drawn from the themes of solitude/self-reflection: “like a luminous animal you dance alone like a luminous animal the night fills all your pores like a luminous animal you glow" (Moffeit).


Michaela Catranis

November 20, 2020


Commissioned by the Royaumont Foundation with the support of Christine Jolivet Erlih
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