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Blue Work


I had five long years

for string quartet

Year:  1991   ·  Duration:  8m

Year:  1991
Duration:  8m

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Score

Sample: Page 1

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About

This single movement work is structured as follows: A – variation1(a) – var2(a) – B – var1(b) – var2(b) – var2(c ) – var1(c ) – C. Capital letters refer to themes, "var" refers to the different variations upon those themes. Although there is only one continuous movement, it is divided into three sections with the aforementioned contrasting variations. "A" is a transcription of a prison work song I had five long years recorded at the notorious Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana in 1959 by Harry Oster (released on Folk-Lyric Recording Co., Louisiana Folklore Society). The original singer was James Russell and some other inmates. To appreciate the anguish and bitterness behind these prison songs, one must become familiar with the outrageous conditions to which inmates were subjected during its worst years. "B" is a transcription of the railroad song, John Henry as sung by Rich Amerson, a transient from Alabama as recorded by Harold Courlander in 1956 for Folkways Records. "I ain't proud to be poor, but I ain't too poor to be proud," he was recorded as saying. Its treatment is also indicative of early jug band recordings of the 1920s which I enjoy. "C" is a transcription of the Bayou Teche Waltz as played by Columbus Fruge, a Cajun accordion player and singer recorded in the 1920s. As stated previously, each transcription is dealt with in a set of two variations. Variation 1 is a polytonal variation to be played exactly as written. Variation 2 is an optional improvised section which can either be played exactly as notated or partially as notated and/or completely improvised thereupon.


Contents note

One movement in sections – based on prison song of same name


Performance history

18 Feb 1991: A private reading in sections in front of a small audience, a workshop by the Kronos Quartet, School of Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States of America

30 Mar 2007: Recorded by the Solaris String Quartet - Jeff Dyrda and Jeremy Gabbert (violins), Marcin Swoboda (viola) and Judith Manger (cello)

18 Jun 2009: Zukofsky String Quartet