String Quartet No. 2


For String Quartet with Voice (2004)
Poems by William Stafford and Wendell Berry
Violin I & II, Viola, Cello, Solo Voice

Part 1: Identities
I: Gently

Part 2: The Peace of Wild Things
II. Mesto
III. Andante, non troppo lento

Part 3: Your Life
IV. Very Slowly

Score Sample

Duration: c. 25 minutes


Throughout my career there are a handful of compositions that have taken autobiographical aspects which seem to flow from my pen unintentionally. My String Quartet No. 2 “Identities” became a meditation on public and personal events that affected me in the early years of this century.

The work has several sources of inspiration. The inclusion of voice may be reminiscent of Arnold Schoenberg’s Quartet Second and the Third Quartet of Alberto Ginastera, and some elements of musical discourse are shared with those of Mahler and Shostakovich; but to tell the truth, I also was inspired by a recording of singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, who made a song cycle with the Brodsky Quartet called “The Juliet Letters.”

The poems for my quartet, from American poets William Stafford and Wendell Berry, speak of brokenness, and the attempt to reconstruct life. The musical discourse is based on the use of tonal centers (if not exactly pure “tonality”), has harmonic and stylistic juxtapositions and dislocations that are not resolved. The rhythmic element is fairly smooth, but the internal pulse within each movement changes all the time. The intent is to create a world that sounds familiar but at the same time out of balance, a world apart. To quote the last movement’s poem, by William Stafford:

“… a self often shattered,
and pieces put together again till the end …”