String Quartet (2017-2018)

Commission:

the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress for the Argus Quartet.

Recording:

First movement of a four-movement work

Live recording of the premiere on Dec 5, 2016 Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, NJ

Performer: Argus Quartet

Recording engineer: Andres Villalta 

Program note:

While I do not dare to call it “The Four Seasons,” the movements of my string quartet are inspired by transitional periods of seasonal change. Through the cycle of four movements, I explore themes of transience, birth, death, rebirth, and their aesthetic beauty. We begin in the space between winter and spring, and end in the middle of winter. The quartet itself began in February, during my Copland House residency, when I woke up every morning at five to the song of black-capped chickadees: a simple two-note fee-bee that became the motif for my first movement. My work on the piece progressed as the seasons did; the chickadees grew quieter and faded to an undertone, other birds took their place, then cicadas and the silence of winter. The cello harmonics of the second movement, which covers the space between spring and summer, imitates another bird call—tititititi fee-bee. It develops in canonic setting, and eventually dissolves into the sound of cicadas. The third movement, tempo impetuoso d’estate—my obbligatorio tribute to il prete rosso (the red priest) Vivaldi—builds on these cicada sounds. The finale, fall-winter, gradually introduces a simple song. Several variations follow, and the last merges into the sound of snow buntings’ chew-ki-tik ki-ki.

String Quartet was written between February 2017 and January 2018.