Nostos-Algea (2004)

[string quartet]
Timing: 11’45”

Program note:
Nostos-Algea is the result of a second collaboration with choreographer Laura Poole.  Prof. Poole’s idea began with images of aurora borealis, the colorful lights seen in the skies around the North Pole. In addition, she described images of heavenly or angelic beings, and bright, beautiful stars.  The following quotation of T.S. Eliot describes the narrative idea behind both the music and choreography:

“The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

The title Nostos-Algea comes from Greek; in Greek mythology, the idea of nostos, or a kind of homecoming, is very important.  Central in Homer’s epic The Odyssey, the loss or sacrifice of nostos results in a fated doom of great pain or loss—algea.  Thus, the title Nostos-Algea roughly conveys, “the pain of returning home again,” and is part of the derivation of the word ‘nostalgia.’

In the choreography, 1 of the 6 dancers acts as narrator, one who longs to leave the heavens and to experience the world below.  This angelic being descends to Earth, only to discover an ugly and harsh reality of violence, hate, and war.  Then, a struggle to return home to the heavens and to peace begins, and is eventually realized.

This single movement string quartet is composed in three large sections beginning with harmonics and long melodic lines, which return at the end.  The large middle section is frenetic, anxious and aggressive;  fast rising and falling lines are constantly passed between each instrument and are juxtaposed with windows of chorale-like passages.

Nostos-Algea was premiered on January 13, 2005 in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center at Indiana University.

Commissioned by modern dance choreographer Laura Poole through the Indiana Unviersity School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.

Available from Woodyard Music Publishing:


October 25, 2011    ACME    Joe’s Pub, New York, NY

February 10, 2011    JACK Quartet    University of Alabama, Huntsville

March 25, 2006    Tosca String Quartet    Recital Hall / University of Texas-Austin

March 9, 2005    Ben Sung, Boris Kupesic, vln; Kim Hellgren, vla; Rose Bellini, cello
Auer Hall / Indiana University

January 13 & 14, 2005    Ben Sung, Boris Kupesic, vln; Kim Hellgren, vla; Rose Bellini, cello
Ruth N. Halls Theater / Indiana University