“My response to this work was influenced by Deborah Butterfield’s artistic process as well as the work itself. Due to the complexity but consistency of the sculpture’s make-up and the solitary image of the horse, I felt my response needed to be a solo acoustic cello piece…no multiple layers, just what I can produce in real time on the single instrument.
“The impression I get from the sculpture is one of strength, grace, and introspection in the horse itself, accompanied by a complexity that supports those characteristics, and a sense of wider, open spaces, that are also a part of the sculpture. In response, the cello sound moves from the focused sounds of ‘normal’ playing, representing the solid sculpture, to the hollower sounds of natural and artificial harmonics which evoke the sculpture’s negative space and beyond.
“My work is built around a central melody inspired by the grace and strength of the horse. However, as Butterfield began her work by collecting sticks from her ranch to create the wooden sculpture which becomes the model for the final cast bronze work, my work begins by collecting short fragments of that melody, interspersed with the hollow harmonics of the larger world, that which is not collected and contained. The casting process inspires rising double-stops in the cello, setting up the melody. After the melody is stated, with commentary in harmonics, the fragments disappear into the sound of the wind, blowing around and through.”
About the Artwork
Artist: Deborah Butterfield, American, 1949-
Credit Line: Purchase: Acquired through the generosity of an anonymous donor
Object Number: 2011.51
Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts – Visit website
About the Musician
Elizabeth Start (aka Betsy) holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and cello from Oberlin, master’s degrees in cello and theory/composition from Northern Illinois University, and a PhD in composition from the University of Chicago.
As a performer, she has premiered over 100 works. As a composer, she has received numerous grants and commissions and over 500 performances of over 140 works in the U.S. and abroad. While living in Chicago, she performed on many concerts with Ralph Shapey’s Contemporary Chamber Players, chamber concerts of new music at Orchestra Hall with members of the CSO, for American Women Composers, CUBE, and New Music Chicago.
She returned to her hometown of Kalamazoo, MI in 2001, where she is a cellist with the Kalamazoo Symphony, Executive Director of the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music (a 501(c)(3) arts organization), and Secretary-Treasurer of the Kalamazoo Federation of Musicians, Local 228, AFM. She continues her activities in Illinois with the Elgin Symphony, Chicago Philharmonic, as a member of Musicians Club of Women, and the Chicago Composers’ Consortium. She recently completed a commission from the Kalamazoo Symphony to create a piece for their 100th anniversary season in 2020-21.