String Quartet (I)


Duration: ca. 18’ 30”

Since the 1990s, beginning with pieces

such as Three Short Pieces (1994) (for alto

flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and

percussion), my music began to embrace

a much wider range of musical content,

and rely less on a single idea or

‘monolithic’ form. In these pieces,

including the String Quartet, many short,

sometimes rapidly contrasting sections of

music are used, often heard only

fleetingly, a kind of musical tapestry.

However, these sections are related in

some way — harmonically and/or

melodically. Although this approach may

be seen as being in some way

‘postmodern’, or even as a type of

‘cinematic’ technique, it can perhaps best

be described as a set of ‘continuous

variations.’ The brevity of many of these

sections of music also reflects a debt to

the early, miniature works of the Austrian

composer Anton Webern.

The String Quartet is in four movements,

which are played without a pause. They all

share a four-note musical figure (i.e., D, E,

F, G), informed in part by the violin writing

at the opening of Corelli’s Trio Sonata, Op.

3, No. 2. This figure is used throughout the

work, in a wide variety of musical settings,

and subjected to many transformations.

At the beginning of the first movement, it

is heard as it slowly unfolds, both

melodically and harmonically. It is heard

again in the fast, somewhat agitated

second movement, as a canon between

the two violins. In the third movement, it

is presented in a variety of lyrical ways.

The final movement starts in the manner

of the second, fast movement, but

gradually transforms into a tranquil and

floating texture, and the original material

is heard in its simplest ascending melodic

form, played in the upper register by the

first violin and cello. The String Quartet

was premiered by the Blue Engine String

Quartet in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2003.