Gabriella Smith’s “Carrot Revolution”: Looking at the World Anew

Carrot Revolution, an ecstatic work for string quartet by American composer Gabriella Smith (b. 1991), grooves and pulsates with the sounds of the 21st century.

It’s an exuberant melting pot which includes music of the past, now available at our fingertips as a result of recordings. Early music strains meet bluegrass, jazz, rock, raspy electric guitar riffs, and the post-minimalist thrill ride of John Adams’ Shaker Loops. The voices of the string quartet emerge anew, occasionally with jubilant shrieks and earthy percussiveness.

Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Gabriella Smith composed her first piece at age 8 and began studies with John Adams at 15. Her musical education continued at the Curtis Institute of Music and at Princeton University. Smith’s other passion is biology, ecology, and conservation. As a teenager, she spent five years volunteering on a songbird research project. She is also fascinated with the sounds of life underwater amid choral reefs, which she records with the use of a hydrophone. While Beethoven and Mahler drew inspiration from long walks in nature, Gabriella Smith backpacks into the American wilderness, occasionally venturing alone into the Sierra Mountains for 16 days at a time.

Smith discusses Carrot Revolution in the following program note:

I wrote Carrot Revolution in 2015 for my friends the Aizuri Quartet. It was commissioned by the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia for their exhibition The Order of Things, in which they commissioned three visual artists and myself to respond to Dr. Barnes’ distinctive “ensembles,” the unique ways in which he arranged his acquired paintings along with metal objects, furniture, and pottery, juxtaposing them in ways that bring out their similarities and differences in shape, color, and texture. While walking around the Barnes, looking for inspiration for this string quartet, I suddenly remembered a Cézanne quote I’d heard years ago (though which I later learned was misattributed to him): “The day will come when a single, freshly observed carrot will start a revolution.” And I knew immediately that my piece would be called Carrot Revolution. I envisioned the piece as a celebration of that spirit of fresh observation and of new ways of looking at old things, such as the string quartet – a 250-year-old genre – as well as some of my even older musical influences (Bach, Perotin, Gregorian chant, Georgian folk songs, and Celtic fiddle tunes). The piece is a patchwork of my wildly contrasting influences and full of weird, unexpected juxtapositions and intersecting planes of sound, inspired by the way Barnes’ ensembles show old works in new contexts and draw connections between things we don’t think of as being related.

This performance features the Aizuri Quartet:


Featured Image: Gabriella Smith in the Calanques

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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