String Quartet No. 1 has been performed in Montréal…
This work was conceived as a “travelogue” in five parts played without break, although the boundaries between these five “areas” are not always precisely definable. The first part, PERAMBULATION, unplanned itinerary, is built from small units that are not ostensibly related, and are ordered rather in the way a visitor might spontaneously come across them. But as the observer is tempted to continue the explorations of his new surroundings these units tend simply to follow on from one another and not be allowed to develop. Some of the units are characterised by a sense of fragility and some form intricate skeins of heterophonic polyphony. A further characterisation is a disoriented, deliberately naïve and rudimental consonant tonal simplicity which indeed is a feature of the work as a whole, as is the impression of “memory” and the play on fictionally half-”remembered” music being constantly reassembled.
FAST TRAVELLING (Speed and distance) forms the second part. The note A is continually present somewhere or other in this movement. Against a hovering moto perpetuo the cello starts lyrically to distance itself from the rest. Afterwards at certain points the music collides in more savage rhythmic dislocation. The third part, OBSERVING (Standing Still), returns to the principle of units, but here a primitive, rather serene and glowing fragment is continually distracted, starting and restarting, and a short-circuiting back to its beginning, as if the traveller is continually examining the same place or situation. This primitive fragments becomes motivic and permutated into all possible shapes to form the basis of material of the fourth part, OBSERVING (Travelling Fast), another allegro culminating in a climactic “fugato”. In this movement there are occasional episodes that relate to technical exercises like Sevcík. Finally the last part, RETURNING (View Receding), is a quiet coda reviewing the concerns of the first part “modulated” by what has come between.
© Benedict Mason