BALANCE + String Quartet

Michael Malis — piano 
Marcus Elliot — tenor saxophone 
Kimberly Kennedy — Violin 
Jiamin Wang — Violin 
James VanValkenburg — Viola 
Jeremy Crosmer — Cello
May 2019

Expanding their ensemble to a sextet and their compositional palates to wider sounds, Balance collaborated with a string quartet made up of Detroit Symphony Orchestra members to bring together two new original compositions for this unique instrumentation. The project was commissioned by community donors and facilitated by Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, who presented the world premieres of these two works in their Nightnotes concert series.

Aesthetically Present - Marcus Elliot

April 27th, 2019, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, multiple myeloma. This news really shook me at my core. As time went on I begin to find myself trying to distract myself from the reality that I was faced with. One of those distractions that I fell into was hoping for “more time”. I found myself hoping and praying for more time with my mother, and hoping that all of the treatments that she will receive will work, and hoping that things would be better than they were at that time. I did all of this hoping with the thought that doing so could only better the situation. I was wrong. It did not better the situation. If anything, it created a distance between myself and the reality of where my mother was at. It was not allowing me to be present with her at this moment and time. The “more time” that I was hoping for was already happening. I was missing the exact thing that I was hoping for because I took for granted the fact that every single moment that we are alive and we are with one another is the “more time”. Our lives are not a given, every moment is truly a gift. For me, music is an exercise in this principle of being present. Music allows us for a brief second to realize just how beautiful, precious, and fragile these moments that have been entrusted to us are. “Aesthetically Present” was written during the time that all of this was happening in my life. It was not originally written with this theme in mind, but it felt appropriate and necessary to dedicate the music to the time that it was written inside of.

Five Stations - Michael Malis

Recently in my life, I've made a series of very intense transitions in a relatively short period of time. As my habits have changed, so have my priorities. And as I continue to grow as a person, I realize that this process of constantly being in flux is nothing to be scared of; rather, the act of perpetually inventing and reinventing oneself is something to bravely welcome with open arms.

Upon refection, I've realized that the rhythm of these transitions is such that one extended period of time that feels whole, full, and universal cedes to another extended period of time that feels altogether different but no less whole, full, or universal. I've begun to think of these contrasting extended periods as "stations" -- resting points, places of reprieve, and the defining textures of my daily life. I've sought to transliterate this idea to a musical process in this composition.

This piece consists of five distinct "stations" -- extended sections have their own defining life-forces independent of each other. These stations share certain characteristics in terms of materials -- pitch sets, interval structures, and rhythmic orientations -- but much of that similarity is buried beneath the surface. These five stations are meant to contrast with each other, showcasing extended musical ideas that should feel whole and full in their own right.

I hope this piece inspires performers and audiences to reflect on the stations that their own lives have traversed through, as well as the stations of life yet to come.