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Pulsar (2003)

For solo violin

Commissioned by the BBC, jointly with the Royal Philharmonic Society, for Ilya Gringolts
First performance by Ilya Gringolts, Wigmore Hall, London, UK, on 17 March 2003
American premiere by Movses Pogossian, Buffalo, NY, on 10 February 2004
Viola verson was premiered by Carol Rodland, 15 June 2006, Jordan Hall, Boston, MA
Duration: 6 minutes

Original (violin) version

Version for Viola


Pulsar for solo violin played by Jason Vassiliou


BUY SCORE (for solo violin)


BUY SCORE (for solo viola)

CD Available

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Clarissa Bevilacqua plays Augusta Read Thomas


This work is available on Routes of Evanescence

Prairie Sketches

This work is available on Prairie Sketches.

Rhapsodic Musings: 21st Century Works for Solo

This work is available on Rhapsodic Musings: 21st Century Works for Solo.

American Weavings

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Blooming Sounds: Works for Unaccompanied Violin

This work is available on
Blooming Sounds: Works for Unaccompanied Violin.

Program Note

The Royal Philharmonic Society

PULSAR was inspired by STAR by poet Derek Walcott

If, in the light of things, you fade
real, yet wanly withdrawn
to our determined and appropriate
distance, like the moon left on
all night among the leaves, may
you invisibly delight this house;
O star, doubly compassionate, who came
too soon for twilight, too late
for dawn, may your pale flame
direct the worst in us
through chaos
with the passion of
plain day.

"My music must be passionate; involving risk and adventure such that any given musical moment may seem surprising when first heard but, a millisecond later, seems inevitable. I think of my music as nuanced lyricism under pressure! That said, my primary artistic concern is to communicate in an honest and passionate voice, being faithful to my deepest inner promptings and creative urges. This way, any willing listener, irrespective of prior musical knowledge, training or background can engage with my music.

"Every listener brings their own unique perspective to the listening process. In Pulsar I offer them aesthetic engagements with the world and with themselves as I, too, undertake a mission of self-discovery. Music of all kinds constantly amazes, surprises, propels and seduces me into wonderful and powerful journeys. I care deeply that music is not anonymous and generic — easily assimilated and just as easily dismissed and forgotten. Pulsar has passionate, urgent, seductive and compelling qualities of often complex (but always logical) thought allied to sensuous sonic profiles.

"My favorite moment in any piece of music is that of maximum risk and striving. Whether the venture is tiny or large, loud or soft, fragile or strong, passionate, erratic or eccentric — the moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul! All art that I cherish has elements of order, mystery, love, recklessness and desperation. For me, music must be alive and jump off the page and out of the instrument as if SOMETHING BIG IS AT STAKE.

"This artistic credo leads me to examine small musical objects (a chord, a motive, a rhythm, a color) and explore them from many perspectives. These different perspectives reveal new musical potentials which develop the musical discourse. In this manner, and in Pulsar in particular, the music takes on an organic, circular, self-referential character which, at the same time, has a forward progression.

"Pulsar, for solo violin, was commissioned by the BBC, jointly with the Royal Philharmonic Society, composed for and premiered by Ilya Gringolts.  The premiere took place on March 17th at the Wigmore Hall in London."

— Augusta Read Thomas
February 2003
Chicago, IL

Selected Reviews

Laurence Vittes, Gramophone "Augusta Read Thomas's two solo viola pieces, PULSAR and INCANTATION, operate on a mesmerizing plane anchored in a Bachian sense of line and structure, and bombarded with echoes and reflections."

Ithaca Journal "Pulsar for solo violin (2003) is a surging, flickering, virtuosic tour of a sonic galaxy, filled with frenetic passagework and bursts of musical light.."

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