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Shred (2018)

for two violas
in one movement

Approx. duration: 5"

commissioned by
Michael Hall

Premiere: Pending


Once again I have New Music Gathering to thank for both the genesis of this piece and, more importantly, my introduction to the luminous violist Michael Hall. In addition to being one of the dearest and sweetest people to ever traverse our planet, Michael is an ardent champion of living composers and new music, with more than 200 commissions to his name as of this writing.

While Michael and I met briefly at my first NMG in 2017, it wasn’t until the following year in Boston that we managed to properly connect, and where he unwittingly set this idea in motion. 


The piece had two catalysts. The specific idea came from overhearing a discussion Michael was having with composer Arthur Breuer, during intermission at the main concert, about the limited number of pieces for viola other than solos and sonatas, and in particular the dearth of viola duos. The overall feel of the piece came from Michael’s frequent pleas to all the composers he met to avoid the usual viola cliches: the mournful, slow material typically written for the instrument. Michael wanted to challenge the stereotypes and encourage new thinking.


It may have been the stimulation of Michael’s infectious enthusiasm, or of the conference and the concert in particular, or possibly of some beverages consumed thereafter. But the cab ride back to my lodgings had my brain spinning with what could be done with two solo violas that would burst the stereotypes. I had an image of the two players dueling in some energetic manager which then brought on images of rock guitarists doing similarly. And what do rock guitarists do? Shred.

By 1AM I was making rhythmic and structural notations for the piece, which remain how the piece commences almost unchanged. By the next morning I had enough to show Michael, and the deal was sealed.

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