Sibyl Tones (String Quartet No.1)
for String Quartet (2004)
Duration: 6 minutes
Availability: For Sale
Premiere: December 6, 2004 at Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Arditti Quartet.
Sibyl Tones is almost unmistakably the work of a string player, insofar as the precision with which each instrument is abused bespeaks a high level of intimacy with the feel of bow and fingers against the string. It is as if each note were not sounded, but meticulously sounded around: the bow too close to the bridge or too far away, drawn too faintly or crushed into the string; the fingers pressed too lightly against the string or trilled furiously upon it or both at once.
More than any overdetermining system, Sibyl Tones is governed by the physicality of the instrument, and each short section is marked by the gradual introduction of different playing techniques: glassy harmonics, skittish string-crossings, snap pizzicato, and finally a climax of brutal sawing, before the piece resolves once more to an uneasy calm.
- Daniel Stephen Johnson