Benjamin Williams

Mechanizations (String Quartet no. 1) (2008)

One of the more popular stories of the Western-music tradition is that of Brahms' first Symphony and the 21 years it took to complete. Living in the shadow of Beethoven generated a feeling of inadequacy that was hard to overcome. Such an overwhelming feeling also comes with the string quartet: a medium that has been mastered by so many brilliant composers throughout time.

When beginning this project, I expected to labor meticulously over each and every detail. Instead I was able to have a great deal of fun as I wove together the various individual lines into a lively, intense whole. While still following many traditional aspects of a quartet, such as number and character of movements, I wanted to play with aspects that might speak more to my own interests in pop, rock and jazz idioms. An example is the opening sonority comprised of the pitches from the open strings of a guitar, which are slowly morphed and twisted into sounds more familiar to jazz fusion. The second movement's organic rhythms are that of a free melodic voice. In the third movement, the strings are tossed and turned in a scherzo that is jangled with angular rhythmic motives that are indicative of a bebop setting. The piece ends with a brilliant and driving return to the sounds of open guitar strings with soaring melody duets.

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