Saturday, October 29, 2011

String Quartets

I have string quartets on my mind these days. One old, one new. And I'm searching for ensembles to perform them. I have mentioned this on Facebook, but haven't written of it here.

In 1991, I wrote a String Quartet in three movements, partly as a reaction to the first Gulf War. I remember being fascinated by the media coverage. This was the first time we had such a clear view of an actual war in action and I was disturbed by all of the implications -- the technological voyeurism, the detachment with which we could observe the ugliness from the comfort of our living rooms. I was overwhelmed by the idea that here was a president I didn't vote for, enacting a war I didn't support, and that war machine rolling out before my eyes on my TV screen. I could watch, but I was powerless to do much else. And there, on my TV, were Americans talking about enduring that fighting for me. They were risking their lives believing they were protecting all of us back home. Every day feeling in turmoil, trying to go about the rest of my rather mundane life. To get it off my chest, I wrote a SQ. Atonal, highly dissonant -- a style inherited from my teachers, but the dissonance was even more pronounced. I liked that thorniness. Still do, although I don't write like that anymore.

The result is a somewhat disturbing score, attractive in its own dark way, and emotionally very heavy. I made a few half-hearted efforts to have it performed and then put it on a shelf and forgot about it.

Earlier this year, I revisited that score and discovered, by coincidence, that it had been 20 years, almost to the day. I had forgotten. I went through it in detail, editing and rewriting to make it more self-consistent and re-copying using notation software (the original was in pencil). I found I was overall very pleased with it -- nice to have written something 20 years ago and still be happy with it.

Then I started a new one. I'm just about done with the first part and have ideas for the remainder. I like where its headed. The music of the completed movement (the opening) has a bagatelle quality -- a lot of playful ideas and no ponderous message. My sense now is to keep that through four or five more short movements. I have a structure in mind, but that's more subject to change than in some of my other works. We'll see.

So I'm contacting ensembles, one by one, and anybody I know who is connected to ensembles, in the hopes of finding someone willing to perform the first one and at least take a look at the second. If necessary I'll hire an ensemble myself at some point, though I can hardly afford it.

On Facebook