String Quartet No. 1
About this work:
My original intent with this work was to write a set of four independent miniatures. After writing the first maximally-sized one, I decided to change course: these four "miniatures" are now my String Quartet No. 1.
Although these four movements are designed to be independent, small amounts of material are used interchangeably between each movement. Most notably, material from the first two movements is used in the third, and material from the third movement is used in the fourth.
The most prominent aural feature of the first movement, Fast and Sprightly, is the recurring "clarion" motive. This motive evolves into various thematic gestures and also reappears in the next two movements. Another prominent feature of the first movement is the use of jazz references. The string quartet is required to "swing," a style of playing usually only utilized by jazz musicians and big bands.
The second movement, Logy, begins by parodying North American, southern-style country waltzes. While composing this movement, I had visions of my mother interrupting "Three good ol’ boys fiddlin’ on a porch in Rabun Gap, GA," quipping at them to stop. The quipping is represented by the first violinist interjecting the "Rob–ert" theme. This strange, surrealistic daydream probably originates from memories of my mother calling my name from the other side of the bedroom door when I was a boy.
A section called "Andrew Lloyd Webber Disease" occurs in the middle of the second movement. This section is a schizophrenic alternation of a sick, dissonant, violin duo with an Andrew Lloyd Webber-sounding viola and cello duo. By the end of the movement, my mother joins the "Good ol’ boys" for a final song, after they have all become sick from eating too many boiled peanuts.
The third movement, Sad, Luscious Adagio, uses material from the first and second movements, but at a much slower tempo. Each player has a featured solo in this movement: the cellist plays a solo in double-stops and the violinist plays one made up of almost entirely artificial harmonics. The second violin and viola solos are intended to highlight the instruments’ singing qualities and the performers’ lyrical abilities. As with Logy, I use material recycled from previous movements.
Although the fourth movement, Energetic Polka, is not a strict polka, it has a polka-like beginning. It also contains a few short "quotes," the most notable one being the appropriation of the melodic line from the theme song from the television show The Love Boat.
Material from other movements is also used in Energetic Polka, particularly by the cello. The cellist never has a chance to play the "Pseudo-fugato" theme in Logy, so the cellist "aggressively" reintroduces it in this movement. Energetic Polka ends with a section entitled "Hyperfast shimmy and shake."
Year composed: 1997
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:String Quartet
Instrumentation: 2 Violin, 1 Viola, 1 Cello