for string quartet, clarinet, piano and soprano
Commissioned by the Arts Association of Denmark, 2001
Scientists have been pondering the possibility of a unified theory of energy since the beginning of the last century. Super String Quartet for string quartet, mezzo-soprano, clarinet, and piano brings this concept of the unseen physical world to life in a musical and visual fantasy. Music, poetry and visual projection meld under the spell of this super-magical theoretical hypothesis. Diana Syder’s enchanting poem Homo Sapiens Reads a Book on the Superstring Theory serves as the center piece of this work, it’s pulsating, tango-like musical setting moving in a trance-like dream in the middle of the work. Each of the four forces of energy as we know them, gravity, strong, weak, and electromagnetic energy has musical characterizations in the work. The opening chord from the strummed on the lyre evokes the gravity theme as the electromagnetic theme from the piano spins all twelve pitches in a cycle of fifths. The ascending and descending chords orchestrated for the string quartet are built on the pitches F and E and represent the strong energy force. The clarinet, representing weak energy, intermittently sings phrases created from the summation tones generated by the intervals found the gravity chord. A line from Diana Syder’s poem, “neat rows in a mathematician’s garden” was the invitation to bring the ordered and balanced lyricism of Mozart’s chamber music into the mix The theme from his Trio in Eb fades in and out of the texture of the piece creating an allusion to time travel.
Poet Diana Syder and composer William Neil presented pre-concert lectures in schools throughout Denmark prior to the premiere. The work featured a tunable lyre tuned to what the composer terms the “harmony of gravity”. Visual artist Colin Crockett’s painting interpreting this multi-dimensional theory of time and space was projected during the performance using computer imaging. Super String Quartet, commissioned by the Arts Association of Denmark 1984 was premiered in Federicia, Denmark on January 26th, 2002 by the Zapolski String Quartet, Julian Milkis, clarinet, Cordula Hacke, piano and Barbara Ann Martin, soprano.
Audio from the premiere
A 20 minute musical fantasy reflecting on the the unified theory of energy.
Super String Quartet
Excerpt from Score: