Kristina Wolfe, Planctus


Our final VQ Composer Spotlight features composer and sound artist Kristina Wolfe. Kristina is a PhD candidate in Multimedia and Computer Music Experiments (MEME) at Brown University. Her music often bridges the chasm of time across two worlds, between the historical and the contemporary, and her interests run the range of electronic music, spectral music, medievalism, lutherie, and musical scoring techniques. Kristina plays the Viola da gamba, Electric Bass and Double Bass. Her work Planctus for quartet uses scordatura tuning, which was often used in Renaissance viols and lutes, to create special timbres and chords between the players.


Where are you from?

I am from Denmark and the United States. I grew up spending summers in the Mols Bjerge area of Denmark, and its history and beautiful scenery really inspired me and my compositional practice. I currently live with my husband in Florida.



What got you interested in composition?

I think I have always been interested in composition. When I was very young, I was driven to try to compose music but I felt like I didn’t know what to do. I was very interested in sounds and I would try to work with them using tape recorders, keys on the piano, poetry singing - anything I could find. I would also try to record my proto-compositions using invented notations that I could never remember how to use. Eventually I began formal musical training but my interest in writing music was present long before that time.



Who have been your biggest musical influences?

Guillaume de Machaut, Giacinto Scelsi, John Jenkins, Pauline Oliveros, Jonathan Harvey, G.F. Haas, Liza Lim, and Horatiu Radulescu.


I am also heavily influenced by atmosphere: environment, time, space, place, etc., and many of the influences on my work have come from wandering through locations I find ghostly or inspiring.



What are some challenges or advantages when writing for string quartet?

My favorite aspect of writing for string quartet is the opportunity to work with subtleties of timbre. Voices can blend into a single sound and then immediately leap out into diverse registers and textures such as the sound of wind, scratching, the sounds of metal, wood, or an ethereal harmonic. Also, I love the intimacy of a string quartet. Every member is equally important and equally beautiful. No one player can hide or be hidden by any other.



Anything else you wish to say about Planctus?

Planctus is special to me. I began to compose this lament after hearing the hollow, ancient, almost AM radio-like timbre high above the 4th position on the Cello’s lowest string. It spoke to something I was thinking about at the time. Once I began, I became very devoted to finishing the piece and did nothing else until it was written down. I generally try to pace myself when composing, but this time I could not. Afterwards, I reworked the score numerous times to communicate the textures of the work in the notation.


Visit the VQ New Works Competition Page to hear Kristina's piece.


Kristina Wolfe - photo credit Arvid Tomayko-Peters