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beneath the magma


Composed in 2006

For violin and viola

Duration: 4:00


Beneath the Magma came into being after a request from violinist Fung Chern-Hwei, who I met at the 2006 Henry Mancini Institute.  I first heard him in the context of his jazz-fusion combo, The Evil Twin, in a performance that rocked the house and left my friends and I stunned.  What drew me to Chern-Hwei’s playing, aside from its fluid virtuosity, was his ability to create sounds on the violin that rivaled the crunch of distorted guitars and the whine of ringing amp feedback.  These were sounds I had been exploring for some time in my own cello playing and composition, and it was thrilling to hear another musician exploring sounds in much the same way.  When Chern-Hwei first asked for the piece, my first question was, “Do you want something sort of jazzy, or more classical?”  His reply was typical Chern-Hwei: “Classical, but hardcore!”  Thinking about this led me to consider deep issues, in particular, the solid, hard, metal core at the center of the Earth.  Realizing that this was indeed the kind of hardcore I needed, I decided that the piece would be called Beneath the Magma, invoking images both of molten metal and Chern-Hwei’s white-hot style of playing.  



First Performance: December 2nd, 2006

Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

Gang of Two: Chern-Hwei Fung, violin; Hui-Ping Lee, viola



Recording: October 27th, 2007

Duncan Recital Hall, Rice University, Houston, TX

Cristian Macelaru, violin; Lauren Magnus, viola


Beneath the Magma was recorded by Duo Scordatura for their debut album. Andrew Sigler reviewed the album for here. The entire review is excellent and well deserved by my friends Nicholas Leh Baker and Faith Jones. Here is what Sigler had to say about Magma:


"Jordan Kuspa’s Beneath the Magma starts out with quietly growling unisons glissing and whining wider and wider into small turns. High energy, quasi-Balkan (or maybe real Balkan?) rhythms evolve from these opening gestures, populating alternating odd time signatures. While not straight-up tonal, the piece is centered in this ballpark for the most part and serves as a strong opening to the album."


Many thanks to Nicholas and Faith for including my work on their album!


Related Works:

Fantastic Stuff

Hall of Mirrors

Sounds From Outer Space

String Quartet No. 2

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