Liquidambars (2009)

Martin Arnold

two violins

Commission: Quatuor Bozzini

Program Notes

The liquidambar is a kind of deciduous tree. I also think it’s a beautiful word, all the more so for its irregular spelling of the word amber. A jewel made from fossilized tree resin fluid and flowing again. More prosaically, the other name for the tree is sweet gum (the tree yields an aromatic resinous balsam). Maybe Sweet Gum would have been a more fitting name for this duo. All of my music is concerned with local detail (rather than progression and development) and Liquidambars is no exception; but the detail in the duo is more concerned with quirky local harmonic twists than most of my other music—a kind of thinly outlined but surprisingly viscous chromaticism that I find can be passingly sweet but that sticks to my memory in amorphous, blobby configurations. But these irregular, shapeless shapes resist being fixed in my imagination—they slip and slide; liquidambars indeed.