Instrumentation: two violins, viola, cello
Media links: forthcoming on Bridge Records
If I think about and listen for what I mean to indicate with my markings for soft and loud in The Space Between, I arrive at the idea that in addition to volume, or dynamic range, those markings refer to a notion of near or far, and of private or public. The piece opens with a strangely loud, aggressive and, I’d say, public unison in all four players that is immediately contrasted with a soft and, I’d say, private high note in the first violin alone. In a sense, the dialogue between these two “voices” travels the entire piece. I suppose this dichotomy might also be described as an idea of the one (private) and the many (public). (It seems a happy thing that words might fail here, as it helps highlight the ineffable and nonverbal aspects of what music can do. These ideas—of near and far, public and private—matter to me, but I want always to leave the door open to whatever expressive experience a listener might come across with a given piece.) At any rate, the string quartet seems a perfect medium for exploration of these sonic possibilities of blend and individuality. The notion of the sound of near versus far might also be heard in a temporal way, as in the sound of an earlier time juxtaposed with a sound of now. I’ve experimented with asking the quartet to play various passages “as you would play Mozart”, for example, or in reference to some other style of composer. In this way, I hope to tap in to those performance modes that come so easily to experienced players and to listeners as well. One question I think this piece attempts to ask is about melody, about what it means to write a simple melody in a string quartet now. The simplest and most straightforwardly presented melody comes deliberately rather late in the game in this piece, which I hear as being related to the expression of near and far, or then and now.
The Space Between grew out of a quartet I wrote for the Cypress Quartet in 2001. The connection between this piece and the first movement of that piece is evident, but the presence of new material and recasting of salvaged material makes this a distinct piece. I’m deeply grateful to the amazing quartets I’ve had the opportunity to work with while writing this piece: the Cypress Quartet, the Cassatt Quartet and the Daedalus Quartet—incredible and deeply thoughtful musicians all.