Return to Chamber Music
Return to Works

Chi (2017)

For string quartet

Commissioned by Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the Spektral Quartet
First performance by The Spektral Quartet on 29 April, 2017 at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
Duration: 14 minutes

The first of four movements as performed by the Spektral Quartet.

 
Program Note

CHI for string quartet is in four movements:

I: CHI – vital life force
II: AURA – atmospheres, colors, vibrations
III: MERIDIANS – zeniths
IV: CHAKRAS – center of spiritual power in the body

The world premiere of CHI for string quartet was given by the Spektral Quartet in historic Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago.  The music was composed for the extraordinary spiritual qualities and acoustic properties of Rockefeller Chapel’s grand cathedral space.

The Chinese refer to the vital life force energy of the universe, present within every living thing, as 'Chi'.  Chi has been studied for over ten thousand years, from China and Japan to India, the Hawaiian Islands and South America.  Chi is the energy of life itself, recognized as the balance of Yin and Yang (male and female, positive and negative, electromagnetic energy), which flows through everything in creation.  The power of Chi emits soulful colors (the Aura), giving expressive vibrational frequency, and sound.  Chi flows through the body pathways - known as Meridians (highpoints) and Chakras (deep, subtle spiritual nodes of the profound essential center) - of all living forms. 

Commissioned by Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the Spektral Quartet, CHI for string quartet is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Elizabeth Davenport and the Spektral Quartet.

— Augusta Read Thomas

Notes

To play a shorter version of CHI: any movement can be played alone; or any group of movements can be played together. When a subset of movement(s) is played, please list the composition on concert programs as: From CHI for String Quartet.

For example:

From CHI for String Quartet (2017)                       Augusta Read Thomas
             III: MERIDIANS - zeniths

When all four movements are played, they should be played in the published order.

DURATION DETAILS:
I: CHI – vital life force – duration approx. 3 minutes and 30 seconds
II: AURA – atmospheres, colors, vibrations – duration approx. 4 minutes and 30 seconds
III: MERIDIANS – zeniths – duration approx. 4 minutes
IV: CHAKRAS – center of spiritual power in the body – duration approx. 2 minutes

PROGRAM NOTE BY PAUL PELLAY

Chi, for string quartet, was commissioned by Chicago's Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the Spektral Quartet who premiered it on April 29, 2017. Thomas explains the work's title thus:

The Chinese refer to the vital life force energy of the universe, present within every living thing, as 'Chi'. Chi has been studied for over ten thousand years, from China and Japan to India, the Hawaiian Islands and South America. Chi is the energy of life itself, recognized as the balance of Yin and Yang (male and female, positive and negative, electromagnetic energy), which flows through everything in creation. The power of Chi emits soulful colours (the Aura), giving expressive vibrational frequency, and sound. Chi flows through the body pathways - known as Meridians (high points) and Chakras (deep, subtle spiritual nodes of the profound essential centre) - of all living forms.

In musical terms, this leads Thomas to shape the work as a 4-movement, fast-slow-fast-slow sequence. The opening Chi sets the stage, all driving rhythms and punchy accents, the music dominated by an inexhaustible sense of forward motion which finally cuts off at the point of maximum intensity. From this emerge the quietly glowing colours of Aura, giving the listener the impression that a point of repose has been reached in necessary contrast to the previous relentless activity. Such an impression is deceptive, however, as the harmonies slowly but surely build in volume and tension, until the music's opening glow has finally turned to sheer incandescence. Such an accumulation needs a release, and it's almost with a sense of relief that the quartet tears off at a gallop in the ensuing Meridians. Thomas' by now familiar bebopping hockets once again send the music cavorting across space, but this is a different kind of forward motion than the one embodied by Chi: the effect is now less openly directional and more scatter-shot, the quartet unashamedly rejoicing in this endless discharge of energy. Like the preceding movements, the music at last cuts off at its peak, thus ushering in the concluding Chakras. This is the shortest and simplest of the movements, all glowing, glassy harmonics, all energy and emotion finally, blissfully spent as the music fades off on a widely spaced, clean, perfect fifth into the silence of true repose.

Copyright © Paul Pellay

Selected Reviews

Mr. Leslie Gerber, The Boston Musical Intelligencer "Chi is based on the Chinese concept of life force. There was plenty of life force running through this concise work, which engaged. Spektral played it with obvious affection, and Chi said a lot in less than 15 minutes. I’d welcome the chance to hear it again, as well as more from Thomas."

Map Available

To purchase a map of CHI, please visit the Online Store.


CHI map
 
Concert Program [PDF]

Concert Program - A TRIPTYCH: Earth, Moon, Peace
SATURDAY APRIL 29, 2017 | 7:30 PM | ROCKEFELLER CHAPEL
Works of Augusta Read Thomas
Played by Spektral Quartet and Third Coast Percussion


Image designed by Elizabeth Davenport and Gearóid Burke
 

Spektral Quartet / Photo Credit: Joe Mazza

Dr. Elizabeth Davenport Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago

Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago

To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.