Skimming Rock and Skipping Stones - programme notes
The following are the programme notes for the string quartet to be performed at the concert.
This piece was originally conceived as a tribute to the anthem rock bands of the 1970’s and 80’s - groups like Yes, Kansas, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Anthem rock has hard driving beats with often intricate melodic lines and layers of sound; all features which influence much of the classical music I write. I did not intend this piece to be a pastiche of my favorite rock songs; it is rather (in a small way) my homage to the musical artistry and inventiveness of these musicians.
The string quartet has three movements. As word play, use of colloquialisms, and double entendre is common in the naming of songs and albums in the rock world, I indulged in the same practice in naming the movements.
In terms of geology, there are three types of rock: Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic. Granite is an igneous type, salt is a sedimentary type and slate is a metamorphic type. I then related these types of rock to modern colloquialisms to create the titles for each movement.
Taken for Granite is a movement with some pyrotechnics for the first Violin voicing the guitar solos and riffs of rock and roll. The use of some techniques like sul ponticello (playing on the bridge), pizzicato and harmonics simulates some the effects that can be achieved with electric instruments. Granite has a number of different colors to it and so does this movement. Created out of the fire of the earth, this piece comes out of the fire of this style of music.
Salt of the Earth, the “slow” movement, is designed to show some of the sonorous sounds indicative of this style of music. Although it also has a fast section which allows the first Violin show off again. Many of the motifs for this movement are leaked in from the other movements and form the core to the entire piece.
Clean Slate is a piece which returns to the hard driving sound, but with new motifs – in the end we realize these motifs are just changes from the ones presented in the first two movements. So while the music has changed, it is still rock built with layers of ideas.
Writing rock music for a quartet is not new. The Turtle Island Quartet has been doing covers and arrangements of a variety of different styles of music from jazz, fusion to rock, blues and folk since their inception in 1985. Several different groups in the US are achieving commercial success by bringing popular styles of music to the classical quartet. Skimming Rock and Skipping Stones is my foray into this genre.