Shadows and copycats

The second movement of the string quartet is based around a collection of playground games with the same concept: mimickry. Be it following the leader or learning a dance routine, this kind of shadowing routine occurs frequently in the playground.

Knowing I wanted a slow yet detailed texture, my initial thoughts were to draw from textures I know well: those of Javanese gamelan. In a number of previous works I’ve referenced the gamelan’s texture and stratification directly, and it felt the right way of creating the right atmosphere for this piece.

The piece begins with some gentle, still chords, full of tone clusters in the violins and viola. The three instruments are copying each other rhythmically, but with slight alterations in the notes. The cello then begins with a slow melodic line, weaving in and out of the chords. A leader, heading out alone with the backing of the other followers. After a brief interlude, the cello repeats the melody line, this time joined by the second violin playing a more decorated version of the same – weaving their own personal touch on the melody yet still following the leader. The first violin and viola remain holding the chords, but slightly out of sync with one shadowing the other.

A second melodic line then appears, created from the retrograde of the first. Alongside chords and decorated versions, the occasional cello ‘gong’ note punctuates the texture – but all the while following the shape of the melodic line.

The movement continues and builds until all instruments are playing lines directly influenced by the cello’s initial melody.

Shadows and Copycats is the second movement of my string quartet. Three movements are complete, with the fourth (which makes slight references to the other three) to be completed soon.

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