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097 STRING QUARTET with demostrations
Last post Wed, Jun 08 2011 by ozoufonoun_29353, 12 replies.
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Posted on Thu, May 12 2011 22:51
by Stephen W. Beatty
Joined on Sun, Apr 27 2003, Wheat Ridge,CO, Posts 238

I am posting a recent String Quartet on my web site http://web.me.com/stephenwbeatty/Web_Page/Welcome.html The title page is 097 String Quartet 4.

This is a continuation of my earlier post "What's the Point"

Regards, 

Stephen W. Beatty

SWBEATTY
Posted on Sat, May 21 2011 09:40
by GoranTch
Joined on Tue, Mar 14 2006, Berlin, Posts 524

Very solid production, with great deal of attention given to musically shaping individual instrumetnts, which I always have great esteem for. Could use some polish in the spatial and eq departments.

Posted on Tue, May 31 2011 08:43
by Banquo
Joined on Sat, Apr 09 2005, Dublin, Ireland, Posts 395

Haven't posted in years, but came on to say that I LOVE 091 String Quartet 3. Excellent work, I have to say.

Posted on Thu, Jun 02 2011 19:50
by Stephen W. Beatty
Joined on Sun, Apr 27 2003, Wheat Ridge,CO, Posts 238

Thanks for the good comments. The string quartet has always been the gold standard for me in composition. I still struggle with the 2nd violin which seems to always be hanging somewhere in space. I also agree with the spatial and  eq. comments given that I have very little training in mixing. MIR has made a great difference in the mix , but there is always room for improvement in this department.

Regards,

Stephen W. Beatty 

SWBEATTY
Posted on Thu, Jun 02 2011 23:58
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5443

 It is a good composition.  You are right it is difficult to write well for standard string quartet. I think it is partly because it is an unbalanced ensemble.  Not yours here, but the string quartet in general.  The two violins against a single viola and cello are overpowering.  They absolutely dominate in timbre and level.  Also, the cello is forced to play bass lines, which is stupid because it is characteristically a tenor instrument.  The viola is utterly isolated in the middle. 

All this is solved by changing it to a string quintet with an added bass, or getting rid of one violins for a trio, or changing one into a piano for that quartet, all of which are perfectly balanced and much better ensembles. Or the Trout Quintet - that is so beautiful an ensemble it is mesmerizing.  

Of course the standard string quartet didn't seem to be any problem for Mozart, Beethoven or Haydn!

Posted on Sun, Jun 05 2011 22:48
by Stephen W. Beatty
Joined on Sun, Apr 27 2003, Wheat Ridge,CO, Posts 238

Then there is the issue of the wide variation in string quartets. Compare a late Haydn quartet with Elliot Carter first of third quartet or quartets by Ralph Shapey. I get the impression that Haydn's quartets were played at social event where polite conversation and drinking or eating was taking place. Needless to say Elliot Carters work would not work well in this venue. Anyway, I agree with your comments and will put on my to do list a quintet using the instruments used in the "Trout"

Regards, 

Stephen W. Beatty 

SWBEATTY
Posted on Mon, Jun 06 2011 01:31
by ozoufonoun_29353
Joined on Sun, Jul 22 2007, Posts 107
William wrote:
You are right it is difficult to write well for standard string quartet

Actually, the quartet allows more options to solve musical distribution of materials than trios and duets, so it should not be harder per se.

William wrote:
I think it is partly because it is an unbalanced ensemble. 

While I don't agree with this statement, and quite a bit of repertoire also supports the case against your assessment, balance is at least to a certain degree subjective AND dependent on musical material/content.

William wrote:
The two violins against a single viola and cello are overpowering.  They absolutely dominate in timbre and level.

Well, it was born from the trio sonata with one or two upper voices supported by a continuo part (cello and harpsichord).  Given the nature of that musical material (very busy and melodically important bass lines being a hallmark of the Baroque era), I'm not sure that the ensemble is thought of as being unbalanced, nor that the...

William wrote:
cello is forced to play bass lines, which is stupid because it is characteristically a tenor instrument.

Again, historically that is not the legacy of the cello.  Obviously, from romantic era forward, the cello took on a great many more roles than its earlier bass roles.  However, for many years (including the Haydn/Mozart years) the bass and cello played the exact same lines with octave doubling being the only difference.  In other words, in terms of musical material, they were both considered bass instruments and not to be seperated in terms of their roles.

William wrote:
The viola is utterly isolated in the middle. 

From a timbre standpoint, the viola is the glue that holds it all together. Mozart apparently loved to play the viola for this reason when playing string quartets. In the full orchestra, that role is shared with french horn, which successfully created a bridge between the woodwinds and strings in terms of timbre.  Again, just listen to early symphonies (Haydn, etc) and notice why and when the horns play in tutti sections.  Like the viola, it is one of the sounds that the audience doesn't gravitate toward, but instantly misses when it is gone.

William wrote:
Of course the standard string quartet didn't seem to be any problem for Mozart, Beethoven or Haydn!

Indeed! There is a reason why composers have picked the string quartet to express their most personal musical thoughts.  It is perhaps one of the most balanced ensembles ever created.

But, again, balance is subjective and very much dependant on musical material.  It may very well be true that for your musical material, the quartet raises more questions than answers them, and that a trio lends itself better to your ideas.  Perfectly valid.

In any case, congratulations Warren!  Some wonderful musical ideas in your composition.

Oh, and William I just had a listen to some of your work on your site.  Very thoughtful and heartfelt writing!

Cheers,

O

omidzoufonoun.com
Posted on Mon, Jun 06 2011 15:42
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5443

 ozoufonoun,

Yes, what you're talking about is based upon historical useage and you are right about that. For example, the cello used to be a bass instrument, essentially.  Though ask a cello player how much he likes playing a Bach orchestral suite in which every single note doubles the bass.  It was Beethoven who "set the cello free"  (not to mention the bass, writing soloisticially for it in the later symphonies). But it is a good point you make since the string quartet as a distinct ensemble is so famously represented by the great composers who - as I mentioned - managed to write some of their masterworks for it.  Like the late quartets of Beethoven which are maybe his greatest works. 

I know that my saying this AGAINST the string quartet is bizarre in light of all this, but it is based on my actual physical sensations when listening to quartets in close quarters.  I actually find the sound of the violins so harsh that it causes me physical pain like fingernails scraping across a blackboard.  Even when they are played beautifully. And this sound dominates the viola utterly, because though as you correctly point out it can hold together harmony (as it normally does in orchestral string writing) it has a softer, far more delicate and retiring timbre which I immensely prefer (another weird opinion I know) to the violin.  And that beautiful sound is simply steam-rolled over by the extreme power of the violins.  If you sit right next to good players (or play in a quartet) you know what I'm talking about.  And so my obviously highly debatable opinion is based upon changing the basic useage of instruments from the historical precedent, as well as very subjective reactions, but is unavoidable to me.  Though again, I realize that these aspects can be overcome to create great music as all the famous composers have done. 

To continue though with basic timbral characteristics of  ensembles, contrast what happens in a string quartet - 2 dominating violins taking over melody, cello forced to play bass and no longer available for countermelody or passionate singing in its tenor range, viola feebly sawing away at middle range harmony and almost never heard soloistically because of the necessity of that harmony - to what happens with a piano quartet:

The piano can play harmony, as well as bass, freeing the cello and viola from their slavery and allowing them to be used as soloistically as desired at any moment. The piano is also perfect for a contrasting melody line - distinct and yet as retiring or forceful as needed and yet blends perfectly with all the strings.  And the use of only one violin allows a balance far more in keeping with the nature of  the instruments involved.   

I mentioned the Trout quintet because it has an amazingly complex and very different timbre due to the use of a piano quartet with added bass.  The sound that the bass adds is strikingly deep and beautiful and all the instruments contrast and yet at the same time blend perfectly. It is an amazing piece in both composition and instrumentation.

One other interesting ensemble - what to me is the most perfect combination of instruments in music (among small chamber groups) - the flute-harp-viola trio.  Just listen to something like the Debussy trio and you will hear an almost uncanny blend that allows each timbre to perfectly compliment each other, but also to contrast.  It is in fact extreme contrast COMBINED with extremely smooth blending. 

Hey, why don't I just shut up and write some chamber music! 

Posted on Mon, Jun 06 2011 16:22
by ozoufonoun_29353
Joined on Sun, Jul 22 2007, Posts 107

Many good points as well as personal preferences William.

If I will also turn my attention more to my personal preferences, then I will take your comment about the late Beethoven string quartets being among his greatest works, give it a huge thumbs up, and then up the ante:  They are among my favorite works from any composer, any musician, any time and place. 

Trout is indeed a fantastic work.  Heck, for pure soothing blend and balance, as a guitarist I would argue that nothing stands up to a flute and guitar duo, but then again, I actually like the rawness and sometimes strident quality of the string quartet. 

Most importantly though, you are right:  Let's shut up and write some stuff!  Big Smile

omidzoufonoun.com
Posted on Tue, Jun 07 2011 13:20
by Stephen W. Beatty
Joined on Sun, Apr 27 2003, Wheat Ridge,CO, Posts 238

Thanks, Omid and William for the discussion. Beautiful web site Omid! I especially liked the picture of you and some older gentleman looking at each other with mirthful expressons. I don't know if you all know about the classical archives. http://www.classicalarchives.com  It is a well organized web site offering mp3 and midi files. Williams comments about the "Trout" quintet lead me to download the midi files from this site as a starting point to compose a quintet with similar intsrumentation. The files include the Andantino, 5 Variations, Allegretto and the finale allegro giusto. I also ordered the score from Dover. We are straddled between two worlds the traditional world of scores and players and the world of midi notation and a digital player MIR. For me, the realization of composed music relies on the latter and this world has developed in an astounding way in the past 30 years, finally it is becoming a real performance venue. By the way the late Beethoven String Quartets are also available in midi files. The  three of us span the USA, from FL to CO to CA also astounding, to be able to have a conversation.

Regards,

Stephen W. Beatty      

SWBEATTY
Posted on Wed, Jun 08 2011 06:11
by ozoufonoun_29353
Joined on Sun, Jul 22 2007, Posts 107
Stephen W. Beatty wrote:
Beautiful web site Omid!

Many thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to look it over! 

Stephen W. Beatty wrote:
I especially liked the picture of you and some older gentleman looking at each other with mirthful expressons.

That would be my father, and he definitely deserves way more credit than I do when it comes to inspiring mirth! ; )

Stephen W. Beatty wrote:
I don't know if you all know about the classical archives. http://www.classicalarchives.com  It is a well organized web site offering mp3 and midi files.

Thanks for the kind words about the Classical Archives.  I not only know about, I work there!  I am proud to be one of small number of "musicologists" who organize and catalogue the content in order to ensure that it is musicologically sound and consistent - a daunting, ongoing, and very worthwhile task.

Stephen W. Beatty wrote:
The  three of us span the USA, from FL to CO to CA also astounding, to be able to have a conversation.

I know, the world keeps expanding and getting smaller at the same time. 

O

omidzoufonoun.com
Posted on Wed, Jun 08 2011 06:18
by ozoufonoun_29353
Joined on Sun, Jul 22 2007, Posts 107

BTW, here is a quick and dirty mockup of the beginning of the slow movement from the Op.135 quartet, arranged here for full strings a la Bernstein with the Vienna Philharmonic.

http://omidzoufonoun.com/portfolio/beethoven_op.135.mp3

No MIR, and could certainly use a lot more finessing to get the expression right, but it was a fun little exercise given my reverence for this music.

O

omidzoufonoun.com
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