Quirkhead (2017)

For soprano and string quartet
Duration: 9 minutes

Written for Tony Arnold and the Third Angle String Quartet
as part of the inaugural Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music


Program note:

I was born a quirkhead. I was the little girl who tapped every wall she walked by and believed that vegetables had feelings. I made up thought rituals that I would perform every day to alleviate my fears of losing those I loved. I counted the number of times I swallowed, and I put my hangers in my closet a certain way because I was terrified that one item out of place would trigger the next apocalypse. And it would be all my fault.

I didn’t know that millions of others lived this way, until my seventh grade teacher observed that I wrote sentences in a specific arrangement. I was both amazed she noticed and completely mortified that someone had seen my most vulnerable self that I had been trying to hide for so long. I explained to her that I associate letters and words with certain connotations, and because I like the word “left” better than “right,” I write the words I like better to the left and the ones less so to the right. After hearing about some of my other rituals, she told me about obsessive-compulsive disorder. I felt liberating knowing that I was not alone, but I grew to hate myself. I felt so ashamed that everyday tasks that were so easy to others felt impossible for me to complete.

Through years of counseling and self-healing, most of the tics subsided. But it took me years to realize that having OCD didn’t make me a horrible human being. In fact, it made me a better one because it gave me immense patience and diligence through performing endless compulsions. It allowed me to be more accepting and empathetic towards others. And it made me love those close to me more. My brain will always be wired differently, but maybe that’s okay. And I’m finally proud to be myself – I’m proud to be a quirkhead.

Many thanks to Gabriela Lena Frank, Tony Arnold, and Third Angle New Music for making this piece possible.



October 21st, 2017
Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music & Third Angle New Music Concert (purchase tickets here)
Performed by Tony Arnold (soprano) and the Third Angle String Quartet:
Ron Blessinger (violin), Greg Ewer (violin), Charles Noble (viola), and Marilyn de Oliveira (cello)
Portland, Oregon