String Quartet

quartet for two violins, viola, and cello, 2015

String Quartet consists of a single movement, approximately twenty-five minutes in duration. The piece is composed of five sections, yielding a large ABABA form. Each A section is anchored by a repeating ten-note scale. Confined exclusively to the first violin in the first A section, the scale is gradually broken up over the course of the subsequent A sections, yielding a hocket-like texture shared by the whole quartet. The repeating scale, at first presented in straight quarter notes, provides a stable ground against which a constantly shifting series of harmonies evolves. As each A section unfolds, glissandi, rhythmic acceleration, and other means of distortion blur the initial sense of clarity. Gestures become more dramatic, and more material is squeezed into shorter and shorter amounts of time. The B sections, which consist mostly of sustained block chords, can perhaps be viewed as the end result of this process of compression. These B sections strip away the scales and rhythmic activity of the A sections, laying bare the harmonic scaffolding of the piece.

The repetitive circularity of the ten-note scales stands in contrast to the overall linear trajectory of each section, and the piece as a whole. Each section undergoes an expansion and contraction of register. Meanwhile, a gradual ascent in register unfolds across the entire piece, a trajectory implied by the very nature of the repeating scales. In acknowledgement of this ascent, the final A section is rendered almost exclusively in natural harmonics, narrowing the timbral and harmonic focus of the piece considerably. The quartet closes in the extreme high register, with a conventional tonal chord progression. The progression acknowledges the submerged tonal implications of much of the piece, though its registral displacement, timbre, and intonation (a result of using high-partial natural harmonics) distort it almost beyond recognition.

Listen to an excerpt, below. A full recording is coming soon.

Yuki Numata Resnick and Myra Hinrichs, violin
Carrie Frey, viola
Jonathan Golove, cello