Review of Not Created or Destroyed, for Solo Violin, Solo Cello and Strings
"The concert was entitled "Double Trouble," because four of the five works on the program featured a pair of soloists. One of these was the world premiere of a composition by Gloria Justen, who also happens to be a member of the first violin section…Justen's work was probably of greatest interest. The title, "Not Created Nor Destroyed," refers to the transformative nature of energy and matter. As a memorial piece to a friend of the composer, the theme seems to reflect on death as transformation, rather than termination. The solo voices are violin (performed by Justen) and cello (performed by principal Eric Gaenslen). The work has two movements entitled "dialogue" and "elegy" (case sensitive), both of which, in the spirit of the overall title, are more exploratory than maudlin. Justen's notes in the program book acknowledged several influences, all of which were evident; but her own voice emerging from these influences was just as evident. One hopes that further opportunities to hear this work will arise." Stephen Smoliar, San Francisco Examiner.
Review of Anthemes II by Pierre Boulez, Orchestra 2001 concert
"The rest of the program was no less significant...Pierre Boulez's 1997 Anthemes 2 had the fearless Gloria Justen playing an incredibly intricate violin part - sometimes suggesting explosive, atonal Bach - while her sounds were electronically manipulated and spectacularly ricocheted in surround-sound speakers." David Patrick Stearns, www.philly.com.
Review of The Soldier's Tale, by Igor Stravinsky, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia concert
"But in Stravinsky's L'histoire du soldat (not your usual Bach bedfellow), concertmaster Gloria Justen projected a singular authority that can perhaps come only from a performer who is also a composer. Momentarily, I'd forgotten that Justen, who has composed works for Relâche and others, has this other life - until realizing how much unanticipated musical information was coming out of her instrument. Even when L'histoire isn't presented as a theater piece (with its Faustian plot about a fiddler-soldier who is tempted by the devil), the violin is a musical protagonist requiring more than just intelligence and style. Hearing the dry Stravinsky-conducted recordings of the piece, you wonder how much the composer understood that. But like many composers who perform the works of others, Justen met the piece at eye level, acknowledging its passing influences from jazz and folk culture, but mostly giving the violin the kind of aura that comes with their being only the most tangible elements of a larger world. Rhythms don't just snap, but speak. A sustained note suggests a character having a contemplative dilemma. Ideas and melodies are reprised with an ever-new slant." David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2005. There is a more recent good review of the same piece, different production in 2011, here:
Review of The Movie is in Your Mind, Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2006
"Experimental, eclectic . . . excellent
If there's one gift that 20th-century modernists gave to 21st-century experimentalists, it's vanquishing that silly old question as to what constitutes music. Any sound or even an idea of sound (as with the conceptual artists) is indeed music - at least, theoretically. Luckily, the actual form such concepts mostly take these days is more sensible than in the heyday of experimental music composer John Cage and video artist Nam June Paik. An almost photo-realistic approach to sound was intermittently a part of what violinist/composer Gloria Justen (who is also Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia's concertmaster) called a "sonic immersion performance" titled The Movie is in Your Mind. Premiered Friday at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the 45-minute work presented through 24 huge and tiny speakers consisted of clear-cut "scenes," each roughly five minutes long. Justen sought to make these scenes as personal and vivid as possible by blindfolding her audience. The blindfolds also addressed the ages-old problem of electronic music - the performance has almost no physical aspect - this time Justen coolly mixed the piece at her laptop.
Given the wide-open possibilities of electronic music, you have to be grateful for a piece that knows what it doesn't want to do, each section taking on a well-defined compositional problem and placed in a sequence that has each section reacting to the last, as some sort of polar-opposite or reverse negative of what came before. One consisted of geologic layers of rhythm, followed by a homogenous sound mass whose forward progression came from throbbing highlights on the edges of the timbre. A collage of "found" sound (often in the form of everyday nature and city sounds) was heard next to a block of synthetic sound.
Like French composer Claude Debussy, Justen knows to give her listeners something resembling a traditional tune close to the end. But because this is Justen and not Debussy, the tune came in the form of a jazz riff. Any number of instances suggested that the rhythm of the natural world was just a small step away from the hypnotic repetition of Philip Glass-style minimalism. So many different impressions could be taken from the piece that, whatever is suggested by the movie allusions in the title, the music's descriptiveness is anything but prosaic. The Movie is in Your Mind is such a complete and powerful musical entity - a quality not often found in fringe festivals - that you look forward to the even more rich creative zones that Justen is likely to explore next year at this time." David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer 2006.