String Quartet No. 1
In the opinion of this composer, one of the principal advantages of classical stringed instruments is their capacity for emotional expression. Subtle details of articulation, dynamics, vibrato, timbre, and phrasing contribute to a rich palette well suited to capturing the wide range of emotional states that characterize human life. In composing my first string quartet, my motivation has been to produce a vehicle for conveying these states to the listener, while acknowledging both the subjective nature of interpretation and the fact that many of the details listed above must be entrusted to the sensitivity of the performers. Although this work does not adhere strictly to the common practice style, the principles of Western tonality play an important role in contextualizing individual harmonies and phrases. In addition to classical influences, the work contains inspiration from the music of other cultures, including Ireland, China, and the Middle East. As in the music of Bartók, Debussy, and Ravel, this influence is not always explicit, but it informs the melodic and rhythmic character of various themes. The pitch language in the work draws from the diatonic modes of Western music as well as pentatonic, octatonic, and chromatic collections in order to highlight the intervallic content and tonal relationships that best reflect the character of each moment. The meters organizing the music are familiar, but mixed divisions imbue them with a sense of freshness. The first movement forms a narrative in which the music progresses through a number of contrasting moods, from its initial calm to yearning and serenity, continuing on through turbulence to boldness and vigor, and finally arriving once more at a state of tranquility. The second movement, in which focus and stability contrast with the vicissitudes of the first, is an expression of grief and could be considered the emotional heart of the quartet. It is the most explicitly tonal of the three movements, and a Romantic sensibility is evident throughout. The sense of anguish gradually builds to a breaking point, which is followed by the catharsis of the final section. After the drama of the first movement and the emotional heaviness of the second, I felt it was necessary to take a lighter and more dispassionate turn. The rhythm of the third movement, inspired by Irish jigs, lightens the character, while the atonal pitch language avoids the happy and sad associations of the major and minor modes. The bowings and articulation, which are not typical of classical playing in this meter, are also imported from Irish fiddle music.
21st Century, Emotion, Irish, Music, Neo-Romantic, String Quartet
March 23, 2012.
A Thesis submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Ladislav Kubík, Professor Directing Thesis; Mark Wingate, Committee Member; Clifton Callender, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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