The commission is coming from the Cassatt String Quartet, a wonderful ensemble I’ve worked with before – they premiered and recorded my Furies and Muses for bassoon and string quartet. They have a residency in Texas next January. They have asked me to write a triple quartet for them to play with two high school quartets. I see this as a really fascinating challenge – first of all to write a piece that has twelve “equal” parts, but also to match up musicians of first-rate skills with other musicians who can be expected to play well for their age.
The piece I am working on is called Blossom. Running 6-8 minutes, it will provide the young string players with age-appropriate challenges, while giving them the rare opportunity to play side-by-side with established professionals. Blossom is also an opportunity for me to put my experience as a teacher — my love for the magical symbiosis between master and apprentice — into music.
Blossom will begin with a single note passed around the ensemble, from teacher to student and back again. As the note is passed around, various players will introduce embellishments, gradually taken up by the entire ensemble, until the seed of an idea blossoms into full-fledged theme, unfolding into rich counterpoint by the end.
As for the compensation, Cassatt is working on raising funds for my fee, but because of the short turnaround time and the general tightness of the economy, I suggested another option: if they are unable to come up with the money, I will write Blossom in exchange for their doing a studio recording of another piece of mine. In other words, bypass the cash-strapped economy and deal directly with one another in a barter system. It’s a model I think I may turn to more frequently in the future.
Kind of appeals to my Medieval inner child.