String Quartet “Threnody” (2009)
Commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for the Daedalus Quartet
SMMP No. 118
Villa Aurora, Pacific Palisades, CA, December 11, 2010. Formalist Quartet
My String Quartet consists of nine episodes which explore three thematic ideas regarding the consequences of war: emptiness and loss, the folly of sacrifice, and madness. The titles of the episodes are mostly drawn from Greek tragedy, with the Trojan War figuring as a contextual framework within which universal and contemporary issues might be addressed. I have made little attempt to “depict” scenes in the music (as in Program Music) yet I have surely responded to texts and editorialized them throughout the piece. Indeed, text has been indispensable to my work, in particular The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Oresteia, and Roberto Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. From these sources I wrote a scenario that served as a guide for each episode, making plain the fatal recurrences (such as the sacrifices of Iphegenia and Polyxena) that characterize the remarkable capacity for human beings to ignore their past mistakes and repeat them with deadly accuracy.