Nina C. Young

Composer and Sound Artist

Title: Memento Mori
Performer: JACK Quartet
Instrumentation: string quartet
Duration: 7:33
Year Composed: 2013

Program Note:

Phase I – "ut cuspis sic vita fluit dum stare videtur" is the first movement of a larger work-in-progress.

A memento mori (from Latin ‘remember that you will die’) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. The association of sundials with time has inspired their artisans over the centuries to display mottoes as part of their design. Often these mottoes cast the device in the role of memento mori. The subtitle of Phase I, meaning ‘life flies on like an arrow, while it seems to stand still’, is one such motto, inscribed on a sundial in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

This work is a meditation on life and the perception of time. In our daily activities, the constant influx of information, sensations, and stimuli saturates our consciousness. By stepping out of time, we can zoom in and out of our perceptual systems, allowing us to focus on their intricacies and beauty.

The musical material of Memento Mori is drawn from Contrapunctus I, from Bach’s The Art of Fugue. The first movement isolates the first five notes of the D minor subject, stretching them out and zooming into the interstices, analyzing and manipulating in minute detail their interactions over time. The listener is thus invited to find interest in the subtle fluctuations in amplitude, texture, and periodicity in the music.
Nina C. Young - composer