Coming up this weekend is the premiere of my new String Quartet â€“ The Figure, performed by the excellent Harlem Quartet.Â ( 9/ 15 â€“ Syracuse University,Â Â 9/16â€“ Eastman ,Â 9/17 â€“ Cornell)Â
The 16-minute Quartet was composed in January and February, duringÂ which time I felt almost as ifÂ I was working in a trance:Â the materials grabbed me and wouldnâ€™t let go.Â Â Â It is traditional in no wayÂ â€“Â not in its forms, norÂ its sounds norÂ its character.Â Â Itâ€™s cast in 2 movements,Â but only as I was about half-way through the second did the a titleÂ suggest itself.Â Â (Playing on the fact that the term â€œfigureâ€ isÂ meaningful in visual arts and literature, as well as in music.)
Everything in the Quartet derives from the materials of its tripartite figure.Â Â And since these are revealed differently in the two movements â€“ obscured in the first;Â in the second initially outlined harshly, but then interruptedÂ increasingly by a softened, melodic version ofÂ itself –Â Â IÂ titled each movement accordingly:Â Â 1 -Â In Shadow ,Â Â Â 2 â€“ In Bright Light.
OverallÂ the Quartet isÂ dramatic in its character, but woven in its form.Â It changes on a dime from inward to outward musics,Â fromÂ romantic sweep toÂ angular exclamation –Â Â at one pointÂ (at the height ofÂ Shadowâ€™sÂ central sprint),Â I ask the players to stamp their feet,Â several times,Â Â for unison emphasis â€“ and the movementsÂ interrelate .Â Â Â Example:Â Thereâ€™s a shard which appears only once in the first movement thatÂ in the second becomesÂ seriously meaningful.
The Harlem Quartet is very interested in the piece, and weâ€™ve already had some spirited rehearsals (by electronic means); we meet in person at Syracuse on Friday.
[Five other of my works will also be done at Syracuse acrossÂ the twoÂ Saturday concerts. ]