Mosaics: String Quartet no. 7

Lawrence Kramer

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
                               gone, dispell'd,)
                        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
Duration: 19:00:60
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:String Quartet

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