Potamopyrgus, tiny snails known more popularly as New Zealand Mud Snails, are an invasive species in the United States, and have been found in Grand Teton National Forest. This piece was inspired by biologist Amy Krist and her research on the causes of the rise and fall, “boom and bust” cycle of the population of potamopyrgus in Polecat Creek. Amy and a few of her graduate students and colleagues have been working to understand what causes the decrease in population. They have tested a few different possible contributors: trematode parasites, turbellarians – tiny and fragile flatworms, discharge, and resources. This piece and the musical sections within it represent the relationships between each of these factors, potamopyrgus, and Polecat Creek.
Trematode parasites, which keep the snail population under control in their native New Zealand, are absent in this piece and also in the potamopyrgus found in Polecat Creek. Discharge, or water level, and resources are represented by a slow and connected melody at the beginning of the piece, which also represents Polecat Creek itself. Amy and one of her graduate students made a shocking discovery that turbellarians are able to squeeze past the snails’ incredibly strong protective flaps and consume them. These tiny, fragile, strangely adorable, and surprisingly brutal flatworms are represented by a bouncing pizzicato melody.
Full premier on August 9, 2018: Anna Kruger, viola, Wyoming Composer’s Festival, AMK Ranch, GTNP, WY
August 8, 2018: Anna Kruger, viola, Wyoming Composer’s Festival, Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, Jackson, WY