String Quartet No 1

String Quartet No. 1

links to detailed program notes:

I – On the Rails
II – Tango a la Peachy
III – Off the Rails

In December 2008 it occurred to me that writing a string quartet would be a good way of exercising my compositional muscles in preparation for the giant task of composing an opera.  It was completed in May of 2009.  Shortly after finishing, I started to realize how hard it is to get people interested in new works from unknown composers.  Not that surprising really, there are many examples of even very successful composers who didn’t get to hear some of their works performed.  Still, it’s different when it’s YOU who spent hundreds of hours making something that no one seems to care much about. I put the piece on the shelf, and got back to composing the opera.

Then, in January of 2010, unbeknownst to me, my good friend Mark Casey hired a string quartet to prepare my piece and premiere it as a surprise birthday present for me. He and my wife invited all of my friends to hear the piece performed in his living room.  I was stunned and amazed.

Although, I have to admit, standing in his living room, I was a bit concerned.  I had no idea what I was about to hear. Could these guys pull it off? The quartet wasn’t able to consult me for clarifications or instructions, all they had were the parts that my wife managed to sneak out of the house. And then, even if they play the notes perfectly, how many of my friends have any familiarity with contemporary classical music? Will they understand anything that I’m doing? Is this really the audience I want for a premiere?

In retrospect, my concerns were unfounded. The quartet did a lovely job and more importantly, my friends are EXACTLY who my audience should be. What better way to be engaged with a piece than to know and care about the person who created it. That night and the ensuing conversations with my friends really changed the way I thought about my music. I realized that I could act as something of an ambassador to both my works and the music I care about. It’s part of the reason I started this blog.

So I’m including some very detailed program notes along with the piece. I hope you’ll take the time to read them and follow along in the music. It will give you a fairly good idea of what sort of things I was thinking of as I composed the piece, as well as the music that influences and inspires me. If you’re not familiar with many 20th century composers, I hope that this may serve as a springboard into that world.

Violins: Liana Berube, Stephanie Bibbo
Viola: Evan Buttemer
Cello: Lucas Chen
Engineer: Vince Caro
Asst Engineer: Willie Samuels
Recorded at Talking House Productions

Special thanks to David Garner, Jennifer Culp, Mary Beth Rhodes-Woodruff, Vince Caro, Philz Coffee House in the Mission, The Cake Shop, and especially Mark Casey.

Click on the movement name to go to the page for that movement, there you’ll find audio and detailed program notes.

String Quartet No. 1

I – On the Rails
II – Tango a la Peachy
III – Off the Rails