Anthony Vine – For Agnes Martin

In the introduction to Brooklyn-based composer Anthony Vine’s diaphanous piece For Agnes Martin, he writes a quote from artist herself: “My paintings have neither object nor space nor line nor anything… they are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form.” This piece, written for flute/piccolo, soprano/alto saxophone, two percussionists, piano, violin, cello, and electronics, takes this quote to heart by invoking both light and formlessness as major components of the piece.

The sounds evoke bright lights because of their icy timbre and generally high tessitura.  The timbres and sonorities that Vine plays with are exquisite, rarely ever heavy. There is a delicate quality to this piece that I think really does evoke the extremely subtle visual art of Martin. Vine’s musical language has a real sense of elegance in this piece that I admire a lot. Some of my favorite moments are the warming tones of 2’01” and 2’27”, the expansive, slowly evolving textures at 3’05-4’45”, the sensitive piano sonorities at 5’53”, and the nearly silent high frequency that takes the piece to a close.


The formlessness mentioned from the quote is certainly present as well as Vine is in no hurry with the soundscapes he creates. Instead, he lets them just continue to morph and alter ever so slightly as time passes. This makes for an interesting effect as after a few minutes you may find yourself in a totally different place than where you began without ever really realizing how far you’ve gone. The slow unfolding of music, soft dynamics, and repetitious use of non-identical material in some sections of the piece remind me of Morton Feldman’s music. Even the title being For Agnes Martin can’t help but evoke Feldman’s monumental trio For Philip Guston.

This is a great piece that I’m sure I will return to again, I would highly recommend checking this out. I haven’t heard any of Vine’s other music, but after listening to this I am definitely interested to hear other pieces of his. Enjoy the music!


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