Scrim (2011) by Alexander Elliott Miller
for viola
2012 Earplay Donald Aird Composers Competition winner

In theater, a scrim is a familiar lightweight curtain that does not absorb light. Depending upon the placement and type of lighting, a number of visual effects on or through the curtain can be achieved, such as silhouettes, foggy effects, images projected in front of the actors, complete opacity, or transparency.

In my composition Scrim, similar musical motives recur throughout the work, but played with a different effect nearly each time. An exposed chorale played ordinario will return later as a simple melody in harmonic glissandos with a sparse left-hand pizz. accompaniment, like a mere "silhouette" of its original version. Such recurrences of various ideas performed with different playing techniques happen throughout the work.

There are other influences at work in Scrim: many of the louder, virtuosic passages near the work's conclusion recall electric guitar solos, particularly those of Eddie Van Halen, whom I grew up listening to, a guitarist who didn’t just play the notes, but played "noise" in between the notes such as string scrapes, pick glissandi, harmonics and whammy bar "dive-bombs." Many of the extended viola techniques in this work are done in a similar spirit.

Scrim was commissioned by Jack Stulz, Executive Director of the What’s Next? Ensemble. It premiered on April 3rd, 2011 in South Pasadena, California.

— A. M.    

[from program for May 20, 2013 concert]