String Quartet - “Infinite Season” (2017-2018)

Commission:

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

Recording:

Recorded at Taplin Auditorium June 12-13, 2018
I. Winter-Spring
II. Spring-Summer
III. Summer-Fall
IV. Fall-Winter

Performer: Argus Quartet

Recording engineer: Andres Villalta 

Program note:

“String Quartet - Infinite Season” was inspired by the changes I observed in nature over the course of a year. Each movement corresponds to one season’s transformation into the next. The first, Winter-Spring, was written in February and March of 2017, while I was in residence at the Copland House in Cordtland, NY. It snowed heavily that year. After each snow, golden sunlight hinted at the spring’s coming warmth. The turbulent fluctuation of the weather made me acutely aware of the passage of time. The seasons seemed to alternate by the day, yet the certainty of spring never faltered. Constant throughout these changes were the sounds of the black-capped chickadees that populate this heavily wooded area. Their charming call—a simple two-note fee-bee—became the principal motive of the first movement.

The work progressed with the seasons. In Spring-Summer, the chickadees fade to an undertone as the other birds of summer begin to sing. The first cicadas appear with a faint hum, then a buzzing chorus. In Summer-Fall, their death completes the arc of one season. Silence follows. Unlike the other seasons, the beginning of Fall-Winter came to me simply as a melodic fragment demarcated by stillness, as if symbolizing a demise. The winter—the most intimate season of all—gets its own song, and its variations span Fall-Winter and encompass all of the preceding music, like memories of the year that’s passed. The journey ends with more birds: the snow buntings’ chew-ki-tik ki-ki echoing in the depth of winter.

“String Quartet - Infinite Season” tells the story of a year unfolding, sound by sound. As the vividness of each season merges into an perpetual year-long cycle, the four movements of the quartet connect seamlessly through continuous transitions and shared musical materials. The four instruments work together, like a flock of birds, to create a dense polyphony. Through their incessant canons, distinct lines fuse into a single texture, enabling sonic transformations from one moment to the next (as when, for example, the chorus of birds change into a chorus of cicadas at the end of the second movement). I experienced the constant flux of the sounds of nature as a bright stillness, shining through the violence of external change. 

This was my solace: the seasons, with their infinite gradations of difference, will return again, and the birds and insects will carry on, cycle after cycle, an infinite rebirth. 

“String Quartet - Infinite Season” was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress for the Argus Quartet. It was written over a one year period from February 2017 to January 2018.