Players: (4); 2 violins, viola, cello
– I. On Nature [4:29]
– II. On Thoughts [6:45]
– III. On Going [5:38]
About “String Quartet No. 1: Ohio”
“String Quartet No. 1: Ohio” is my first foray into writing music for classical stringed instruments (if the title wasn’t enough help). I wrote this piece over the course of several months with guidance from the wonderful Stan Link. This piece has a fairly heavy influence from percussion music (which makes sense) and features a lot of hocketing in various forms throughout each movement. When writing this piece, the initial structure of each movement came very easily and quickly – almost as quickly as I could write it down. The basic emotional context of each movement was apparent from their initial drafts, but it took much longer for me to realize where these emotions had stemmed from. With each playback from Sibelius it became clearer and clearer that this music evoked, in me, scenes of Ohio – my home state. The piece is broken into three movements that represent different aspects of my Ohio.
I. On Nature
II. On Thoughts
III. On Going
Player 1: Violin 1
Player 2: Violin 2
Player 3: Viola
Player 4: Cello
About the title, and my thoughts on titles:
After sub-titling this piece “Ohio,” it was a tough decision for me to decide whether or not I would title the movements. I initially did not want to title the movements because I thought it might color the listeners ears too much. However, after much thought, I’ve decided to name the movements because why not give the listener or potential performer more information. I am also not a fan of works simply titled “Symphony No. 1” or pieces with only numbers for their movement titles. I’m a big fan of titles, so why not conform to my own preferences? I will say, that with any type of music – classical, rock, pop, jazz, minimalist, etc. – my listening experience is colored not only by the title and sound of the piece, but the physical environment I am in. I can hear the same song on a bright and sunny day or a cold and dreary day and get two completely different listening experiences. That is how I feel with all music, even music I write. So while the titles may influence how you hear this work, know that your interpretation of this may align, contradict or even transcend the title I’ve given to each movement: “On Nature,” “On Thoughts,” and “On Going”.
I. On Nature
“On Nature” brings to my mind the landscapes of rural Ohio. Large fields of crops blowing in the breeze, wooded forests, rolling hills, my parents’ home, farmhouses and more come to mind.
This movement asks the string players to quickly alternate between regular bowing and pizzicato plucking during some passages.
II. On Thoughts
“On Thoughts” is probably the most relaxing movement for me to listen to while also the most emotional. For me it brings to mind various memories from throughout my life, covering a wide range of emotional ground.
There are several things to note about this movement. The violins and viola parts in the beginning and end are intended to fade out almost to silence (this Sibelius MIDI gets close, but it not as soft as I would like it to be). Once introduced, one note is added to the cello melody each time it is repeated until the climax of the song when cello returns to the original iteration of the melody.
III. On Going
“On Going” closes this quartet by dancing with the questions “How do we go on?” and “What do we take with us?” Like the first movement, “On Going” cycles through several different scenes and I am reminded of the fields of crops blowing in the breeze, my parents’ home, rolling hills and more, but in a much different context. The initial melody is rather aggressive and then merges into a folksy theme reminiscent of themes from the first movement. This pizzicato section is followed by a sorrowful re-imagining of the same theme. The piece closes with a more thorough and wiser version of the first theme from “On Going,” but does it conclude with triumph? desperation? hope? overcoming? or something more?
This is the first movement in which long sustained chords are played by the ensemble. In the score for this movement there are many phrases that begin on off beats – this is because there is an underlying quarter note pulse that is driving the entire movement from beginning to end (with a slight break in the pulse during the middle chordal section) and the overall effect of this drive would be lost if the measures were re-phrases to accommodate attacks on downbeats.