Wilco guitarist Nels Cline joins the Aizuri Quartet for virtuosic world premiere
January 26, 2021
Wilco guitarist Nels Cline’s inventive guitar playing melds with the classically based, forward-thinking style of Grammy-nominated Aizuri Quartet for American composer Douglas J. Cuomo’s “Seven Limbs.” The Moss Arts Center presents the world premiere of the work in an exclusive performance livestreamed from an East Coast studio on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m.
One of only a few performances of the work featuring Cline, the event includes a live post-performance conversation with the musicians and composer moderated by Charles Nichols, associate professor of composition and creative technologies in the School of Performing Arts.
“Seven Limbs” is a virtuosic tour de force filled with melodic beauty, rhythmic urgency, celebration, serenity, and unbridled joy. Together, Cline and the Aizuri Quartet approach composer Cuomo’s new musical landscape with an openness and meditative tranquility that parallels the Buddhist practice of the Seven Limbs.
Cline plays electric guitar with effects and acoustic guitar in the work. His music is both notated and improvised, following specific directions and guidelines in the score. The Aizuri Quartet’s music is entirely notated, utilizing a wide range of techniques, colors, and effects.
Both strings and guitar are shapeshifters in that the roles of the soloist and accompanist are fluid — at times the guitar is in front with the string quartet playing a more supportive role, at other times the guitar conjures a multilayered and evolving drone-like sonic environment and the strings step to the fore.
Structurally, the piece is a ritual in seven movements, based on the Seven Limbs, a fundamental Tibetan Buddhist practice of purification. The limbs are: prostration, offering, confession, rejoicing, requesting the turning of the wheel of dharma, beseeching the Buddha not to pass away, and dedication.
Cuomo has written music for concert, operatic, and theatrical stages, as well as for television and film. The composer’s expressive musical language, with its arresting juxtapositions of sound and style, is a natural outgrowth of his wide-ranging background and training.
Cline is best known as the lead guitarist in the band Wilco. His recording and performing career — spanning jazz, rock, punk, and experimental — is well into its fourth decade, with more than 200 recordings. Cline has received many accolades, including Rolling Stone anointing him as one of 20 “new guitar gods” and one of the top 100 guitarists of all time.
The Aizuri Quartet’s debut album, "Blueprinting," was nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award and the ensemble was awarded the Grand Prize and the CAG Management Prize at the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, along with top prizes at the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan and the 2015 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in London.
Free virtual discussion with Nels Cline
Join composer and guitarist Cline for a free virtual discussion on Friday, Jan. 29, at noon. Moderated by Karl Precoda, senior instructor in the School of Performing Arts with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech, the event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.
Virginia Tech students from the School of Performing Arts will join the Aizuri Quartet in a virtual workshop tailored for string players, while Cuomo participates in a virtual class visit to discuss his work, musical history, and compositional process.
Tickets are $10 for general public and free for Virginia Tech students. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.
The Spring Fan(fare) Pass provides access to all “HomeStage” events offered between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2021, guaranteeing a minimum 2021 of eight performances. While providing added support for the center, Spring Fan(fare) pass holders also get exclusive information through regular Fan(fare) Insider emails and are the first to know about new events added to the schedule.