Ladies and gentlemen, for your St. Patrick’s Day dining and dancing pleasure, here is the fourth movement of Ben Johnston’s String Quartet No. 10. I think you will recognize the melody although it doesn’t become obvious until near the end.

(Click the link to play)

4th Movement #10  Ben Johnston

Here are Ben’s notes on why he selected this particular melody:

This theme embodies certain contradictions which allow me to make a sincere, precise statement, much in the manner of a fine stand-up comedian.   I am myself descended from the British Isles, and have read extensively about the pre-Christian civilization, which was eventually outdistanced by St. Patrick and all the rest… any objective tribute involves some irony, looking at the sum total; how the difficult history was eventually commercialized- compromises made but the spirit undefeated.

I used this theme-without-variations to create a variations-without a-theme, focusing attention on the surface while carefully concealing the tune- developing it with derivations subtle and complex, in a harmonically intense way from Medieval to the present, finally revealed in a cathartic way, and followed by a popularized, sarcastic version– a tune and a walking bass. In effect, the magic is gone, a sad commentary on the way Western civilization works. At the same time, a bitter, and uplifting statement.

Read more about the Kepler Quartet’s recording of  String Quartets 1, 5 and 10.

2 Responses to “Sure, Now. The Pipes Are Calling”
  1. This whole CD is wonderful. Thanks for posting the link!

  2. Tom Myron says:

    Now THIS is what s21 is all about. Thanks guys and happy birthday Ben Johnston.