Quartet performs student composed ode “To Land”

Composition major Anna Severtson ’22 began composing the piece “To Land” when she arrived on campus in August. Two months later, she finished composing both movements of the piece for string quartet and had created a bold vision for a performance of her works in the Natural Lands that would immerse the listener in music and nature. 

Experiencing nature was a central inspiration for Severtson’s composition. Going on walks through the Natural Lands and then subsequent improvisation on piano were key parts of her composition process.

The first movement of “To Land” is titled “The Trunk.” Through her music in this movement, Severtson creates the feeling of walking on a path in the Natural Lands. The composition, “emulates natural sounds like wind brushing through trees,” Severtson said, “and is just beautiful to listen to.”

In “The Stems,” the second movement, Severtson takes a more adventurous approach to her composition. Severtson wrote “The Stems” in block notation, and during each one-minute block, each musician follows provided instructions on how to play with different speeds, dynamics and articulation. Inspired by philosophical observations of the natural world, “The Stems” explores the duality of nature as simultaneously chaotic and orderly.

Severton envisioned an interactive performance of her composition in the Natural Lands with two string quartets spaced out along the prairie loop. As the audience walked along the path, they would hear parts of each movement in the same overarching experience.

However, a snowstorm on Oct. 20 put Severton’s original plans on hold, in line with a major theme of 2020.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, rather than play along that Natural Lands path, Severtson and a group of student musicians gathered in Christiansen Hall of Music to workshop and record both movements of “To Land.”

The recording is available to view on YouTube.

“My favorite thing about being a composer is working with instrumentalists. I’m of the thought process that we’re creating music together, and that is more rewarding than anything I could have written by myself,” Severtson said.

Severtson plans for another performance this spring in the Natural Lands as originally imagined.