Cerulean Meditation is the result of a collaboration between the Composition and String Studios at ASU and the Phoenix Art Museum. Chosen as one of four student composers, I faced the task of writing a string quartet inspired by a work of art at the museum. The work of mention is an installation by James Turrell called “Mohl ip” – a 10 by 20-foot installation consisting of a core of neon panels that are individually programmed by the artist to create a subtle shift of color over time, seen through a diffusing panel of glass. The title is a transliteration of the Korean term that alludes to the visual purple or pale blue light seen with the eyes closed while in the early stages of meditation. This phenomenon is also what inspired the title Cerulean Meditation.
While composing the string quartet, I took the work deeply into consideration while planning the tone of the piece. “Mohl ip” uses four neon lights to produce the array colors seen while the algorithm gradually changes the hue; so I decided to make use of this number in my compositional process, since I was writing for a string quartet. There are four primary sections to the piece and the final section plays off of the four-note motive that begins the piece. Cerulean Meditation is a beautiful, slow piece that relies heavily upon the dynamic shaping and gradual shifting of notes to mimic the subtle changes in color shown in “Mohl hip.”