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Solo Violin

Score sample

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In the northern end of Chile, about 800 miles from Santiago, sits the Atacama Desert. This desert — the driest on the planet — isn’t well-known outside South America, and most who recognize its name might conjure a

mental image of desolation, a lifeless expanse supporting little in the way of life. They wouldn’t be wrong: the Atacama is inhabited by very few animals, even fewer humans. For a few decades in the 20th century, the desert saw a boom of nitrate mining towns, but as technology moved past the need for nitrate those have largely beenabandoned. The Atacama is a tapestry of ghost towns, dead zones, and the occasional lone creature seeking survival.

In my creative work, I often dance around the concept of loneliness. I remain ever fascinated by the natural and historic offerings of Chile, where my mother was born. The Atacama is a touchstone for both — treasured by

Chileans even in its bleakness, and the setting for a thousand meditations on loneliness through landform, creature, and the desert itself. For some of the Atacama’s few denizens, loneliness is a curse: it means a work of art without a viewer, a ghost town without a guardian from vandals, a lone man without a community. But many others experience not a curse but a blessing: not loneliness, but solitude. Intrinsic in the solitary nature of desert life is freedom, independence, and uniqueness. Only in the Atacama can you find a phenomenon like the desierto florido, or a creature

like the culpeo. It is this solitude that shapes the paradoxical life of the desert, at once lonely and free, desolate and colorful.

I have wanted to write about the Atacama for years, but never found the right project — until my dear friend Sophia Han asked me for a violin solo. A soloist is lonely, yet strong and intimate in her solitude. The violin demands an unparalleled focus and vulnerability from its performer, as if the two are in private dialogue with one another. Any violin solo is a study in loneliness — what a fitting medium to give voice to figures of an arid desert,

themselves lessons in isolation. 

Atacameños is a quartet of portraits from the Atacama desert. The work is dedicated to Sophia Han.

Performance Score: $30

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