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Brad Jenkins: String Quarte...Embedded audio
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The pitch material in String Quartet No. 3 is derived from the distortion of harmonic spectra, a compositional process associated with spectral music. In this case, the harmonic spectrum used as a starting point is the natural overtone series based on the cello's open C string – the lowest pitch available to the string quartet. This harmonic spectrum was then stretched or compressed to generate additional versions that contained new pitches but always retained the cello's open-string C as the lowest pitch. The work gradually moves through increasingly stretched harmonic spectra, then transitions to increasingly compressed spectra before resuming the earlier stretching process.
Harmonic tension is manipulated by extracting distinct pitch collections from each spectrum, as opposed to relying on relationships of tension and resolution based on equal-temperament harmonic changes. Transitions to new harmonic spectra are blurred through the staggering of the players and the use of glissandi, creating constantly shifting harmonic shades.
As a journey between states of heaviness and lightness (particularly in textural, dynamic, timbral and emotional terms), String Quartet No. 3 requires a range of performative techniques. For example, the claustrophobic double stopping that comprises the work’s dense opening textures eventually relents to allow freer, more decorative playing styles in the work’s midsection, while restless bowing positions add a layer of timbral detailing throughout.
The 2012 David Farqhuar Composition Award entailed a commission to compose a work for the New Zealand String Quartet.
Performed by the New Zealand String Quartet.