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Quadruple Quartet (2014)

for a chamber orchestra of 16 players  

comprising four “familial” quartets

(woodwind, brass, string, percussion)  

fl/picc, ob, cl, bsn | hn, tpt, tbn, tba | 2 perc, pno, hp | vn, vla, vc, cb


      I. Contrapunctus

       II. Collage

       III. Dovetail

       IV. Ricochet

M.M. Thesis, University of Oregon

advised by Robert Kyr

Live recording of rehearsed reading with Orchestra New England under conductor James Sinclair

Program Note 

Quadruple Quartet is a 4-movement work scored for 16 players, four from each of the four instrumental families of the orchestra (i.e. woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion including piano and harp). This instrumentation utilizes a minimal number of musicians to create an orchestral sound, in which the distinct timbres of the orchestra are represented by one player per instrument (with certain individual players taking on conventional doublings, i.e. flute/piccolo, multi-percussion). Each movement is self-contained, pursuing its own motivic ends through novel contrapuntal techniques, and is titled according to a salient trait:

I. Contrapunctus is a fugue, whose expressive freedom lies paradoxically in its rigidity;

II. Collage generates complexity through an increasing density (or alternatively, simplicity via sparsity) of cycling layers, variously superimposed;

III. Dovetail  features a medley of widely-voiced tone-clusters arranged in overlapping threads of melody, traded in a variety of blended timbral colors;

IV. Ricochet makes playful, thematic use of a “rebounding” staccato motive.

Additional remarks on III. Dovetail:

Long tones are widely-voiced 3-tone clusters, recombining in permutations of the following variables:

  •  (a) Kind of cluster of 4 available kinds, whose internal intervals are: half-half, half-whole, whole-half, whole-whole;

  •  (b) Voicing of Top/Middle/Bottom tone of the cluster of 6 possible voicings, top-to-bottom: TMB, TBM, MTB, MBT, BTM, BMT.

By exploiting all manner of variety entailed by these variables, I have availed myself of many vertical intervals beyond just the m2 and M2 of the tightly-voiced cluster: m6, M6, m7, M7, m9, M9, m10, M10.  These are interwoven by a triplicate melodic content, whose horizontal intervals include:

(+/-) m2, M2, m3, M3, P4, a4/d5, P5, m6, M6.  An underlying concept is that melodic lyricism "overrides" potential dissonance of vertical clusters. 

 In other words, discernment of chordal cluster-content is obscured by virtue of melodic motions whose salience takes "perceptual precedence."

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