Paul Max EdlinComposer | Artistic Director | Lecturer | Performer

2012 (appx 15′)
string quartet

The Mexican painter Frida Kahlo had an extraordinary life. Born in 1907, she died at middle age in 1954. At six she developed polio and a terrifying bus accident in her teens meant that she suffered life-long physical and health problems. She married the Mexican artist and muralist Diego Rivera, who was twenty years her senior. They had a tempestuous marriage, divorced and remarried. No doubt due to her illness and her confinement to bed or being strapped in a body cast, Frida became self obsessed and made many extraordinary self-portraits. These self-portraits tell us as much about Mexican culture, religion and symbolism, about the tragedy of the country at that time, its politics and its history as they do about Frida and her love-hate relationship with Diego. Frida also kept a diary, and that is yet another fascinating glimpse into this surreal artist’s equally surreal world.

As a composer who has been surrounded by visual art all my life and for whom surrealist painting is particularly relevant, Frida Kahlo’s work excites me. Furthermore, I have a love for symbolism in music and enjoy transferring extra-musical ideas into music itself – thus a piece becomes even more than its apparent surface. A piece ‘becomes’ what it is because of what inspires it and what drives it. Using ciphers, Frida’s name, the names of those who were around her, the name of her home, etc all ‘create’ the musical notes. The diary inspires the musical structure – especially the passages which are ‘stream-of-consciousness’ that are actually highly poetic and highly rigorous in design. Finally, the music of Lotti’s ‘Crucifixus’ permeates passages, and so it should as this is music that alludes to Frida’s world and her own crucifixion as a result of that tragic accident.

Frida Sketches is a sketch about the woman and her world, and it is a starting point for me to track a new path. The work was written for the Arditti Quartet to whom it is dedicated.


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