Drops and Ripples (2020)
For String Quartet
Commissioned by the Tesla Quartet for the Alternating Currents Project.
Premiered by the Tesla Quartet on June 26, 2020.
Drops and Ripples was commissioned by the Tesla Quartet for their Alternating Currents Commissioning Project, where they selected emerging composers to write short pieces. This project was created in order to support emerging composers during the Pandemic. They asked the composers to use Beethoven’s Andante Cantabile from the String Quartet Op. 18 No.5 in A Major, as the inspirational source for our work. The quartet also asked if we could write works reflecting our times, using the scenario of everyone being online, even with each member of Tesla quarantined in different places.
I took the theme from Beethoven’s Andante Cantabile, which starts A F# E D C# B and returns to A, forming a circle. I analyzed each pitch as if with a microscope, looking inside it, trying to imagine what I hear inside it, which textures. And then I had an image of water drops; so those pitches became drops. To me, all these pitches are bright. So I imagined a bright day, but calm, with water or a river shining and forest all around. I started living in that image, almost drawing a picture of drops and then ripples, reflections, splashes, waves, and started imagining all the textures from the water. I used ideas of spectralism in the piece, expanding one pitch into a spectrum, where the pitch would unfold and contain many different colors. It’s almost like a drop of color falling onto white paper, where we see in it other colors, mixing together.
Each “drop” in the piece is led by the first violin, and then the rest of the quartet responds with the ripples and waves. The quartet suggested that it would be a good solution to have one player as a leading voice recorded first, so that other members of the quartet could record their parts based on the first. I thought this was an interesting concept, and I created unpredictable, improvisatory textures, using aleatoric techniques. The reason why I use the aleatoric techniques is that I want performers to have their own space for interpretation and for unpredictable combinations. This works well for the online scenario because they don’t need to worry about strict alignment between parts while recording, and they can have freedom inside of each section (throughout each “drop”) until a new “drop” begins.