String Quartet No. 1
vln, vln, vla, vc
2011, rev. 2013
Commissioned by Spektral Quartet
Premiered by Spektral Quartet, Dec 5, 2011, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
In the chamber music of the high Romantic era, a dynamic tension exists between the abstract logic of the functional harmony that underpins the music and the highly expressive, individuated gestures that make up its surface. I find this tension both appealing as a listener and fascinating as a composer. String Quartet No. 1 seeks to create a similar tension between an underlying harmonic progression and a detailed, individuated surface, but through a musical language that largely eschews the surface rhetoric of the Romantic era.
The elements of an original, functional chord progression are taken apart and brought in and out of focus, as though one is hearing the progression through the constantly adjusting lens of an aural microscope. A ghostly cadential trill or expressive vibrato emerges for an instant and dissolves, as the musical lens refocuses and the implications of the moment are changed, distorted, or forgotten.