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String quartet no.1


Composed in 2005

Duration: 13:00


I. In Two or Three?

II. Blue Clouds, Orange Sky

III. Lightnings


This String Quartet represents my first complete foray into the genre. The piece was composed in response to a call for scores for reading sessions held by the Enso String Quartet, whose dedication to and enthusiasm for the music of young composers is greatly appreciated. A description of each movement follows:


I. "In Two or Three?" – Basically a blues-boogie that emerges from the seamless blending of viola and cello into a polyphonic mass of sound.  At times the piece feels as if it is in two, and at other times the music feels more like it has been written in three. At any point, the listener can decide to listen to the piece in either meter, essentially “switching the ear” to hear a new accent pattern. Besides this layer of rhythmic interest, the piece contains color changes and extended techniques such as knocking on the wood of the instrument.


II. "Blue Clouds, Orange Sky" – This movement was inspired by an experience I had on an evening flight from Houston to Philadelphia.  It was sunset, and the entire sky was a brilliant orange color. At the same time, there was a mass of soft blue clouds underneath the plane, extending as far as the eye could see. I decided to depict this complementary contrast as a balance between two seventh chords a tritone apart. At the time I was writing the piece, I was studying the canonic masses of renaissance composers. Inspired by their example, I used the opening melody (in the viola) as a sort of cantus firmus, which I subjected to all sorts of rhythmic variation, melodic embellishment, inversion, and retrograde.


III. "Lightnings" – This is fast. It buzzes and hums along, in a sort of feverish dance, like a tarantella or saltarello. Dynamic contrasts are abundant, as the ensemble hurtles forward towards a frenetic conclusion.



First Performance: March 1st, 2007

Duncan Recital Hall, Rice University, Houston, TX

Lauren Chauvin and Kaoru Suzuki, violins; Lauren Magnus, viola; Madeleine Kabat, cello



Recording: Enso String Quartet


Related Works:

Hit the Spot

String Quartet No. 2

String Quartet No. 3

Violin Sonata

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