String Quartet No. 4: Crazy Quilt


Program Note

“THIS STRING QUARTET WAS INSPIRED BY A PIECE FOR SOLO CELLO, OUT OF THE BLUE,THAT I COMPOSED IN LATE 2013. That piece’s structure is fairly transparent, a rising and then descending arc of 44 pitches…. Pondering this piece afterwards, it occurred to me that I could build an entire string quartet on top of it, much like constructing a house on top of an already built foundation. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the use of a pre-existing cantus firmus was a similar idea.

“If I had any doubt about Out of the Blue, it was that the process itself was rather obvious and predictable, despite the constant timbral, pitch, and rhythm/time changes.With the quartet version I could thicken the plot (or stew), so to speak.
I chose different basic time units: with the cello maintaining its 60-second unit, the viola uses a 75-second unit; violin 2 uses a 90-second unit; and violin 1 uses two different units—first a 45-second one, then shifting to a 30-second unit, and finally
going back to 45 seconds.The common denominator for all these is that they add up evenly to 45 minutes (2700 seconds).I.e., what starts together, ends together…. The number of pitches for each instrument was determined by its entire pitch range, though I stopped at a high C for the viola, and the way-high G for the violins.

“The winter of 2014 was long and cold. Forced to stay indoors, activities like quilt making are creative ways for people to pass the time.The crazy quilt title came to me because, like in such a quilt, the patterns and colors of this music are very
busy, irregular and constantly changing.There is no ‘empty space’ in a crazy quilt, and likewise there is no empty space, i.e., silences, in this piece either.There is a certain element of self-deprecating humor in the title also. I had to make so many
calculations, do so much arithmetic and counting—activities which are unusual in my composing process—that I felt at times like I was going a bit bonkers. Or developing some kind of counting mania, or a serious case of cabin fever. So this sound tapestry I made in the winter of 2014 is perhaps a ‘crazy’ quilt in more than one sense.”—Peter Garland

About Peter Garland

Peter Garland is a composer, world traveler, musicologist, writer and former publisher (Soundings Press). He studied music composition with Harold Budd and James Tenney at CalArts and maintained long friendships…