Mosaics: String Quartet no. 7
About this work:
This composition originated during work on an a capella setting of a short
lyric by Walt Whitman, "Twilight." It occurred to me in mid-stream that the
piece would also have a nice sound on string quartet, so I began making the
new version. It then occurred to me that the fragmentary nature of the poem
invited further treatment as well. The result is this quartet, a series of seven
short pieces that constitute a series of variations without a theme. Each piece
is conceived as a kind of mosaic in itself. At the same time, by rearranging
(reinterpreting, recasting, reframing) elements shared with the others, each
piece also adds itself as a tile to the larger mosaic. The "Twilight"movement,
no. 5, forms both a long-awaited point of arrival and a necessary point of
departure. The poem (in its entirety) reads:
The soft voluptuous opiate shades,
The sun just gone, the eager light dispell'd—(I too will soon be
A haze—nirwana—rest and night—oblivion.
The music both yields to this evocation and resists it. The poem is one of
Whitman's frequent portrayals of oblivion as a quasi-erotic bliss. The beauty
of its language is captivating, but I don't want to believe what it's telling me.
Mosaics" is a musical expression of this contradiction.
Year composed: 2015
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:String Quartet