Back to my fifth quartet, after a two-month hiatus. While I was focused on other things, the back of my mind was squinching up in discomfort over the final movement of quartet no. 5. Got to get rid of that squinch — it was having a nasty impact on my hairstyle. Here was the problem:
The fifth quartet is obsessed with that most obsessive of forms, Variation. The first movement is a straightforward theme and variations. The second movement is a chaconne, or variations on a harmonic progression. The third movement is a passacaglia, or variations over a repeated 8-note figure.

The fourth and final movement, like the first, is a theme and variations. The version I left off with two months ago was good, but a little too well-behaved, I’m afraid. I’ve come to realize that this movement needs to both reflect and transcend the theme it is based on. To do that, I need to push the pedal down more on the fantasy side of fantasy-variations. This was the movement, after all, that immediately precedes the predawn twilight. Logic needs to take a back seat to something wilder.

Something wilder – I’ve been listening all this week to crwth music. It seems that the fantastical predawn is going to transform my Welsh tune into a haunted hybrid.

And so, inadvertently, this movement is providing a link to the as-yet-unwritten sixth quartet, which is going to be obsessed with fantasy. It will be the last quartet of this cycle, and it has always worried me the most, because from the beginning (1998) I have had a less clear notion of how number 6 was going to play out. Maybe the new direction my fifth quartet is taking will point the way.

Leave a Reply