Abandoned (2022) by Mika Pelo
for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and piano
World premiere; Earplay/Fromm commission

This piece was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation. It was composed while I was on a sabbatical in Berlin, Germany from my ordinary job at UC Davis, and is very much colored by that experience. Even so, I had problems finding a good title for this piece for the longest time, and I didn't find one until I had actually finished writing the piece. Usually when this happens to me, the title feels detached from the actual piece, and just feels wrong.

In this case, the title I eventually found, Abandoned, happened to be the perfect one, and even though it came to me last minute, it truly embodies the piece. It is simply some sort of record of my life for the past couple of years. In the beginning of the of this global health crisis, my family and I abandoned our house and California for a life on the road in Iceland and Germany for the next two years. Of course, the whole world had to abandon life as we previously knew it during this ongoing crisis. At the final stages of writing this piece, the new world order was abandoned when Ukraine was invaded by Russia, and the cold war returned. During our current stay in Berlin, a city very much marked by the Cold War still, my 13-year old son became interested in abandoned sites, and we started investigating several. Berlin is rich with these sites: buildings deserted by the Nazis or the East Berlin communists. This, I later learned, is known as "Urban Exploration." There is something very compelling to these abandoned sites, something to do with late romanticism and the painter Caspar David Friedrich; human civilization trying to master and abuse nature, but eventually nature strikes back, eventually reclaiming what humans have ruined...

Finally, in terms of style, my music is not written according to any recent trends. It is a result of use of several abandoned music philosophies: Tonality, Spectralism, and practices used by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jean Sibelius and Olivier Messiaen.

The central theme of the piece, a motif played by the piano at the very beginning of the piece in harmonics, is inspired by George Crumb, and the piece is in memoriam this great American composer—I owe him so much. In closing, I feel very grateful to the musicians of Earplay, Director Lori Zook, and Conductor Mary Chun for initiating the project, and performing the piece, and also to the Fromm Music Foundation for commissioning it.

— M. P.    

[from program for May 9, 2022 concert]