The Night Sky: String Quartet no. 4
About this work:
The title of this quartet refers not simply to the sky at night, but to the night sky
as it appears in places remote from the glare of artificial light--not the night sky
we see all the time, but the night sky as it once was, as most of us rarely or ever
see it. When Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote his sonnet "The Starlit Night" in
1877, the vista it celebrates--"Look at the stars, look up at the skies! / O look at
all the fire-folk sitting in the air"--was already becoming as much a thing of the past
as the elfin fire-folk. Although the music of "The Night Sky" is neither nostalgic
nor elegiac, it does suggest, at least to me, the kinds of experience that will soon
be lost to us if we do not do better at our stewardship of the only world we have.
The quartet consists of three movements in the familiar order: fast-slow-faster.
The first movement, "The Canopy," evokes the night sky as a spur to the imagination.
The second, "Lights in the Dusk," takes the gradual filling of the sky with light as an
object of contemplation traditionally associated with cosmic harmony. The finale,
"Shooting Stars,"simply surrenders to wonder and excitement. The outer movements
are based on fluctuating rhythjms of fragmentation and coalescence, neither of which
quite gets the upper hand. The middle movement is hushed and concentrated, played ppp almost throughout.
Year composed: 2009
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:String Quartet