"Ms. du Bois, 26, wrote her contemplative, lyrical two-movement trio, a Bargemusic commission in honor of its 30th anniversary, to reflect its atmosphere.
"Both lilting movements, performed without pause, were called 'Barcarolle.' The first, subtitled 'Brouillard' ('Fog'), evoked gloomy skies with a melancholy cello melody and wistful intertwining of the dark colors of the clarinet and the cello.
"The musical clouds parted for the brighter mood and jaunty melodies of the second movement, subtitled 'L’Été' ('Summer'), although there were reflective moments amid the sunshine.
"...Alexandra du Bois...composed 'Soleil sur Mer' with the understanding of a painter who knows exactly where her picture will be hung."
-Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
"Du Bois' Night Songs, String Quartet No. 3, inspired by the life and writing of Holocaust victim Etty Hillesum, was more introspective and meditative than blatantly mournful. The composer had done her homework, reading Hillesum's work and visiting Amsterdam, Westerbrook, and Auschwitz to step as close to the Dutch Jew's wartime life experience as possible. The music born of this was starkly touching, conveying the complexity of individual human darkness rather than the epic turmoil of nations in a time of genocide."
-Molly Sheridan, NewMusicBox.com
Alexandra du Bois named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the Faces to Watch in Music: 2010 Read full article
"Southwest Chamber Music's 'Ascending Dragon Music Festival,' the largest cultural exchange yet between the U.S. and Vietnam, started small Saturday night in Pasadena...Performances will include new work by one of America’s most promising young composers, Alexandra du Bois, and its oldest, 101-year-old Elliott Carter, alongside progressive Vietnamese composers, young and old as well.
"What we share culturally with a country in which we once waged war is to be learned. But it was a moment of wonder that the first sounds heard in the Armory, the imitation of birdsong, represented perhaps music’s earliest and most universal calling, yet also powerfully symbolized the complex relationship between the U.S. and Indochina. That call of a dove came courtesy of a quiet, young American who asked that we acknowledge the past to behold the promise of the future, to think of music as a third way.
"'An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind' was written for the Kronos Quartet in 2003, when du Bois was 21. It is the most impressive work by a composer of that age I have heard since the early pieces of Thomas Adès a decade earlier. Kronos has taken “Eye for an Eye” into its repertory, and, in fact, performed it again last week in San Francisco.
"The title was Gandhi’s adage. The timing of this composition was the start of coalition forces' invasion of Iraq. For Du Bois, the dove symbolized the song of dawn. We wake before the sun to build afresh or, if we are soldiers, to prepare for battle. A new morning and age-old mourning conflate. The dove sings with sliding tones, which was the one common element among this concert's Vietnamese and American music.
"In Du Bois’ 17-minute string quartet, those sliding tones returned with double meaning. They heralded lyricism and thick tonal lushness, the sweet dew on the vine, so to speak. They also revealed anger: In the middle there is an Ivesian uproar, Americana turned ugly and mean but resolving into hymnal peace and a return to nature."
-Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times
"Du Bois' piece is exquisitely constructed of fascinating textures and colors."
-Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"How refreshing to hear a new voice whose lush music explores new tonal territory. The Speaking Tide, a West Coast Premiere of a piece by Alexandra du Bois, combined the astonishing sonorities of bass clarinet (Jim Foschia), cello (Peter Jacobson) and piano (Ming Tsu) to create the undulating movement of the ocean. This piece contains two movements, both Barcarolles, reflecting the rocking motion of the sea. The first, Brouillard (Fog), explores the dark sonorities of these instruments. The second, L'été, sparkles with sunlight on water."
-Beverly Hills Outlook
"...evokes nature with Messiaen-like birdsong, and spirit with marvelous overlapping sonorities—a kind of music of the spheres for our own time."
-Paul Kosidowski, Milwaukee Magazine
"Alexandra du Bois wrote 'An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind' after receiving Kronos' first 'Under 30 Commission' in 2003. As George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld along with a host of others enthusiastically foisted a catastrophic war on the American and Iraqi people, Alexandra wrote music of elegiac expressivity.
"This music attempts to be a conscience in a time of oblivion. She dared, in 'An Eye for an Eye', to counter abuses of moral authority with an internal, personal sound using the string quartet as a witness, a reminder, that music and creativity are part of a continuing web of responsibility. Alexandra du Bois, for one, looked out at the world and heard an urgent, inward sound revered by western composers since 1750 as the repository of some of their deepest thoughts.
'An Eye for an Eye', written by one of our youngest composers, is unflinching in its purpose and eloquent in its parameters. Alexandra du Bois found a voice when many people were speechless."
-Kronos Quartet's founder and first violinist, David Harrington
"Harmonies gradually became more complex and culminated in ringing clusters, which then gradually dispersed. In a grand, satisfying pattern of calm, rising tension and release, In Beauty, May I Walk, glides to a close on placid open fourths, the equally pure inversion of the perfect fifths.
"In Beauty, dissonance does not equal ugliness. Du Bois voiced and colored her clusters, and the women of the [Milwaukee Choral Artists] tuned them, not to clash but to shimmer golden and glorious. Conductor Sharon Hansen undertsood the music exactly and drew a skilled, ardent reading from her singers and players."
-Tom Strini, ThirdCoast Digest
"Tempête de Sable” (“Storm of Sand”) is a 2003 composition by Alexandra du Bois, featuring poignant melodies alternating with frenetic rhythmic passages. A convincing performance."
-Kansas City Star
“Her music is really amazingly beautiful, and I think her idea of the expressive power of the string quartet ties her work to some of the central composers of string-quartet music from the very beginning of its history.
-Kronos Quartet's founder and first violinist, David Harrington, as quoted in Strings Magazine
"Yesterday night we witnessed the first performance of a piece by the 24 year old composer Alexandra du Bois who is also present here tonight and who was stimulated by the trio to write a very moving and successful piece which was greeted by the audience with a lot of enthusiasm."
-Martijn Sanders, former Managing Director of the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam,
at the premiere of du Bois' Piano Trio at the Concertgebouw, commissioned by the Beaux Arts Trio
"When du Bois (b. 1981) was chosen from among more than 300 composers from 32 countries as the inaugural recipient of the Kronos Quartet’s “Under 30 Project” in 2003, she wrote her string quartet: “An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind,” which she cites as a protest of the invasion of Iraq. In her introductory remarks, du Bois mentioned that the strings begin by evoking the sound of mourning doves and, later, of sirens, and those could indeed be heard in the piece. Her work was hauntingly beautiful in passages, some of which were elegaic. The strings brought out the entire range of orthodox and unorthodox timbres and pitches they are capable of producing. Even in these modern trappings, the quartet was able to find each cadence and precisely delineate phrasing and ensemble passages as they were led by internationally acclaimed violinist Lorenz Gamma. Jan Karlin, violist and founding executive director of Southwest Chamber Music, again played flawlessly; her versatility is amazing. Peter Jacobson, cellist and California native, was superb with his deliberate grounding of the ensemble."
- Theodore Bell, CultureSpotLA.com
Alexandra du Bois’s “Night Songs,” a piece inspired by the concentration-camp testimony of the Dutch writer Etty Hillesum, is driven by strong feeling and by darkly pulsing, Janá?ek-like melodies."
– Alex Ross, New Yorker Magazine
“...deeply moved by [Night Songs’] wild, feverish, klezmer-tinged lyricism and almost suffocating closeness.”
-New York music critic Marion Lignana Rosenberg
"The 10-minute folie a deux begins with the violin lines tightly intertwined. The instruments seamlessly switch roles as accompanist and melody-messenger. They frequently converge, wrestle, caress, capitulate. Entanglement is the name of the game, with moments of singing lyricism. It’s a virtue that du Bois’s music is simple without being simplistic, maintaining a buoyant intensity that doesn’t wear you out."
-Robert Hilferty, Gramophone Magazine
"...du Bois presented three poignant compositions...The two string quartets were closely related, as each traced the emotional contours of a war from the past century: WWII and the current Iraq War, respectively. Rather than following a traditional narrative, however, du Bois took emotional content associated with the given situation and transformed it into powerfully evocative music, with a rich sense of harmony and color...a descending semitone glissando, recurs throughout the piece, always with a different emotional meaning, at times giving a sense of calm, at other times ominously signaling approaching violence, and at still others augmenting the harmony in supernatural ways. The players clearly understood this, always sensitive in their intonation and timing."
-Sergei Tcherepnin, Brooklyn Rail
"...well-made and deeply sincere"
- New York Times
"This was a stunning piece that explored the landscape of war and conflict with a sorrowful tone of foreboding, chaos and devastation."
“Returning to America after the interval, Alexandra
du Bois’ Oculus pro Oculo Totum Orbem Terrae Caecat
lamented the Iraq war with fragile whalesong moans usurped
by powerful harmonies, offering an extraordinary interface
between traditional and avant-garde, all the more so
coming from a 20-year-old.”
“…her piece revealed
promising and sympathetic affinity to the expressiveness
of the [string quartet] genre”
Morning Herald, Australia
“A quartet by American composer Alexandra du Bois,
still in her early 20s, was an impressively sustained
essay in musical melancholy.”
“In…Alexandra du Bois' melancholic reflection
on the Iraqi war, An eye for an eye makes the whole world
blind; the Kronos' specialty in exquisitely sculpted
blends of infinitely sustained resonance was especially
of the Arts
“inspired by what du Bois sees as a pervasive
sense of anxiety due to the threat of an impending
Costa Times [San Francisco]
commentary by Alexandra with excerpts of five of her
Gorecki-like calm, oddly stifled phrases and even some
haunting reminiscences of Bartók's night-music
made for compelling effect, as did some 'weeping' sounds
and a poignant minor chord to end the quartet. This is
altogether an impressive work – the more so for
a composer…who was barely in her twenties when
it was completed….I was glad to have departed
with the sound of Alexandra du Bois's interesting and
sensitive sonorities as my prime memory of this concert.”
-Timothy Ball, Classical Source
"…fresh and incredibly captivating." -French music critic Daniel Caux
“Alexandra du Bois’ string quartet…was
an eloquent lament.”
- Manchester Online
article about Alexandra in NewMusicBox
“A very effective quasi-microtonal texture
followed that demonstrated the composer's ability
to create and control sound with understanding and
maturity. It was a well-thought-out, well-performed
and thoroughly enjoyed work.”
- Register-Pajaronian, [Pajaro
“Alexandra du Bois,
a young composer commissioned by the "Kronos under
30 Project", provided a meditation on the build-up
to the Iraq war, all ominous bird calls and languorous,
an interview with excerpts of Alexandra’s
first string quartet for the Kronos Quartet
(Partially in English)
“a dramatic highpoint.” - Potsdammer [Germany]
"gentle wails and tremolos a la George Crumb… then
surging into a succession of agitated micro-bursts
alternating with contemplative episodes, followed by
- Chicago Tribune
Read an article about Alexandra in the Indiana
University Research and Creative Activity Magazine
“And there was much to intrigue, too, in an
eerie, quartertone-soured lamentation by the American
composer Alexandra du Bois — not least the fact
that she wrote this precocious score in 2003 when she
was just 21. As classical scholars may surmise, its
title — Oculus pro oculo totum orbem terrae
caecat (An eye for an eye makes the whole world
blind) — is intended as another wry comment on
President Bush’s world-view. So it led neatly,
if not exactly happily, into the Kronos’ sardonic
thrash through Hendrix.”
- The Times, London
“We were guided by our instinctive response
to the emotional power of her music and the great promise
her work exemplifies for the future…Kronos is
thrilled to begin working with Alexandra du Bois."
-from a press release for
the Kronos Quartet
by founder and first violinist, of
the Kronos Quartet, David Harrington
“magnificent,” by French music
critic Noémie Colomb