Virtual Artist-in-Residence, Violinist Jennifer Koh

The following is a guest post by virtual artist-in-residence, violinist Jennifer Koh.

I am honored to be a virtual artist-in-residence at the Library of Congress.

For the program that was streamed on November 19, 2020, I included works that engage with the question of who we are during this time of COVID. Beethoven Sonata No. 8 which opens the program is not only a musical work that I love, but also a piece that was part of my project Bridge to Beethoven which was to be performed extensively this fall before COVID cancelled nearly all live performances.

Jennifer Koh, credit Jürgen Frank

This work was chosen as a nostalgic reminder of the musical world that I would have been engaging. The Mangle of Practice, a dramatic, innovative work by George Lewis, asks the musicians to learn and use extended techniques that expand the color palette and the standard world of sound of our instruments, a work that engages with my own efforts to expand my creative world within the constraints of COVID. Mink Stole by Julia Wolfe is a wild ride, careening between turmoil and stillness, a reflection of the present day.


Jennifer Koh, credit Jüergen Frank

This concert also contains new works from Alone Together, a project that I created at the beginning of the pandemic in an effort to help fellow freelance artists through micro-commissions of 30-second works written for solo violin and premiered online. I was able to fund this project through ARCO Collaborative, a non-profit I started 6 years ago to advocate for inclusivity in classical music, as well as creating a space for artist-led projects. I approached twenty composers with salaried positions or institutional support and asked them to recommend a freelance composer whom they musically felt connected to. They generously donated their own compositions to help launch this project and support their mentees.

Composed within the first weeks of the shelter-in-place order in New York City, these pieces directly engage with the emotional and aural experiences of that time. Now, months later, I have realized that these works are a musical archive of that painful time. The musical works presented on this program include the sounds of ambulance sirens; works written in memoriam to musical mentors who died from COVID; to newfound relationships to the fragility of our physical bodies, as well as the life force of blood running through our veins; and finally, there are works that grapple with the restrictions of this time and the creative actions we take to expand our lives during this time of contraction.

I hope you will find comfort and solace in this program during these difficult days.

My Year with the Seeger Family: Musicology, Dissonant Counterpoint, and Folk Music—The Seeger Family’s Lasting Legacy

Meet three members of the Seeger Family—Charles Seeger, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and their daughter Peggy Seeger—through their music, writings, and correspondence in the newly described Seeger Family Collection. This wide-ranging and personal collection provides a number of avenues for research in folk and modern music, musicology, and family history.

Two Weeks and Some Change: Upcoming Events at the Library of Congress

You can’t beat the next two weeks of Concerts from the Library of Congress programming, during which we will offer eight musical experiences that showcase a breadth of artistry and perspectives. Here’s a quick run-down so you can make your plans: Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 7pm Montpelier Room, Madison Building “Diversity and the Birth of […]

Songwriters, Suffragettes, and the Musical Stage

  The following is a guest post from Ben West, a writer, director, producer, performer, and musical theatre historian. His current stage project is The Show Time! Trilogy, three new documentary musicals charting the evolution and cultural impact of the American musical: Show Time! The First 100 Years of the American Musical, 45 Minutes from Coontown, […]

Barbara Strozzi at 400

The following is a guest post from Senior Music Specialist Susan Clermont. When she was 40 years of age, Venetian virtuoso singer and gifted composer Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677) published her seventh book of musical compositions titled Diporti di Euterpe (The Pleasures of Euterpe) in 1659.  Only two complete copies of this imprint are extant today – […]