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Transience: [Switch~] commissions Anna-Louise Walton

The [Switch~ Ensemble] commissions "Hapax legomenon" for mixed sextet to be premiered in New York City with a subsequent 4K digital release.


[Switch~] first collaborated with composer Anna-Louise Walton during the summer of 2016, when we performed her piece Jökulsárlón at the VIPA festival in Valencia, Spain. As a student composer, this was one of Walton’s first major public performances. We enjoyed the piece so much, we have continued to include it in our repertoire. Since then, Anna has kept in touch with various [Switch~ Ensemble] members, collaborating on small projects, and discussing the possibility of a larger piece for the ensemble. Now in the early stages of her professional career, this commission from [Switch~] would be a significant opportunity for Walton, provide an opportunity to work closely and cement our collaborative relationship.

Composer’s statement:
Hapax legomenon is a linguistic term which describes a word that occurs only once within a single context. I am fascinated by this concept: a moment which is so special that it occurs only once within a piece. Such a fleeting quality makes it all the more seductive, and also creates an interesting compositional challenge: how to frame such a moment so that its unique character is evident upon its sole realization. Music, a time-based medium, is inherently ephemeral in nature. Historically, composers have addressed this with the employment of various forms, articulated in many cases by the repetition of important ideas. In the exploration of musical hapax legomena in this piece, singular special moments will need to be highlighted not with repetition, but by the material itself and its relationship to the rest of the piece. In the same way a painter uses white space on a canvas, or a musician can create an almost deafening, palpable silence in a performance otherwise full of sound, that which is reserved can often be powerful.  The hapax legomena of this piece will be similarly reserved and highlighted by the use of interruption as well as timbral, dynamic, and gestural contrast with their surrounding musical material.

This quality of transience is also something I relate to on a personal level, having moved frequently for the last five years of my life, and for the [Switch~ Ensemble], who reside throughout the globe and congregate in brief moments of unity to create music together. Transience is increasingly becoming the new norm as more people work remotely, airplane travel is more accessible, and migration of people has reached as extent the world has never seen before. This piece, which highlights the inherently transient nature of music as a performance art, will also explore how to navigate the discomfort and even the beauty of the transience we encounter in modern life.

Project Media

Jökulsárlón (2016) by Anna-Louise Walton – the [Switch~ Ensemble]
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Visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, I was left speechless by both the sight and sounds before me. As the glacier slowly melts, it creates a lagoon full of ice crystals of all shapes and sizes, which crackle and hiss gently. The vastness seemed to amplify these sounds; they were simultaneously delicate and striking. While writing Jökulsárlón, I attempted to create a sound world that was similarly sparse yet captivating. In reflection of the natural polyphony of the ice, the texture is made up of composite gestures rather than melodic lines.

Basket of Figs (2016) by Anna-Louise Walton – Talea Ensemble
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Features: Anna-Louise Walton

Performed by Talea Ensemble
Basket of Figs by Anna-Louise Walton (2016)

Basket of Figs explores the use of wind instruments as an extension of the human voice. The piece fluctuates between moments of synchronicity and counterpoint, with sparse instrumentation which highlights natural aspects of speech. The thin texture and higher register of the piece reflect the intimate nature of the text.

Anna-Louise Walton: Akademie für Komposition des Heidelberger Frühling 2018 | Blitzlicht #6
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Features: Anna-Louise Walton

Anna-Louise Walton gives a pre-concert lecture on her piece “Uttered”, which was commissioned by the Heidelberger Frühling Festival 2018 for Trio Catch. She explains the process with which she orchestrated the trio and the meaning behind the title of the piece.

Start and End Dates



New York City, New York

Project Created By

New York, New York
A new music ensemble for the 21st Century, the [Switch~ Ensemble] is dedicated to the creation of new works for chamber ensemble: we bring bold new acoustic, electroacoustic, and multimedia projects to life. We believe that working directly with composers—in a medium where the score is a point of departure rather than a finish line—allows…

In Collaboration With

artistic director
San Francisco, California
executive director
Richmond, Virginia
New York, New York
Boston, Massachusetts
Columbia, Missouri


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