for string quartet. Duration: ca. 12 mins featured on Brooklyn Rider’s 2020 Grammy Award-nominated album Healing Modes
About the Work
i am my own achilles heel, a form that would never shape.
I am always fascinated by a fantastical world that lies in a reality, a liminal state that lies at the edge of half fantastical, half hallucination. Years go by, I am told this could be a condition and there is a term for this condition: it is the world of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
According to the medical journal, although the cause of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is unknown, the condition typically accompanies episodes of migraines. Affected individuals report feeling that different parts of their body are disproportionate in size and proximity and that their overall surroundings are “warped.” Specifically, these patients perceive objects as larger or smaller than they really are, thereby earning the syndrome its characteristic name.
There are many parts of the world, mental health is still considered as a taboo in the society. To share a piece of music is to say, we might all have fascinations, some real some really out there, you and I, us without them. Let’s share, let’s talk about it, let’s help each other out.
I am here for you, and you will I.
— Du Yun
First Performance by Brooklyn Rider. i am my own achilles heel was commissioned by Brooklyn Rider
Inspired by Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, Du Yun’si am my own achilles’ heel balances on the edge of distortion and clarity. Its soundworld is, as the composer puts it, “half-fantastical, half-hallucination.” An angrily sputtering, choked motive transforms as it is bounced between moods and textures. The recombination is never outright, and there seems always to be one voice protesting murkily in the background. Brooklyn Rider’s shifts back and forth to delicate and wispy harmonics are seamless, and their microtonal meandering through the piece’s closing gives the sensation of falling gently out of consciousness.
Du Yun‘s “i am my own achilles’ heel” is a drifting, ominous piece during which the cello at times seems to imitate the guttural male voice in Chinese opera, but at other times groans like creaking floorboards. The violins move in stealthy harmony like assassins creeping across a darkened room, punctuated by furtive inhalations from the players during pauses. This is the longest of the new pieces on the album, and it’s followed by the longest section of the Beethoven quartet, nearly 17 minutes, which begins in funereal slowness, the strings vibrating together at times in ways that sound almost like an accordion, or a harmonium. As it goes on, light seems to stream into the room; its aching slowness combined with the insistently swelling emotion of the melodic figures brings to mind Arvo Pärt‘s “Tabula Rasa.”