Cassidy, Aaron (2002) String Quartet. [Composition]

The work has received five performances by three quartets: Quatuor Diotima (June in Buffalo, New York, USA); JACK Quartet
(University of Illinois, Urbana, USA; Northwestern University, Chicago, USA; The Tank, New York, USA); Kairos Quartett
(premiere broadcast by DeutschlandRadio Berlin).

1)‘Performative physicality and choreography as morphological determinants’, in Mahnkopf, Schurig and Cox, eds, Musical
Morphology (New Music and Aesthetics in the 21st Century, Volume 2), Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, June 2004, pp.34–51; ISBN
3-936000-13-1 (String Quartet discussed pp.47–51).
2) Programmes available on request.

The work is the first of a series of works to explore and foreground the physical, choreographic components of performance,
and further extends research into instrumental decoupling, a technique that separates and stratifies the various physical aspects
of sound production. In this case, the left and right hands of the string players are composed as entirely independent physical,
gestural layers; the players’ left hand activities are comprised exclusively of quadruple-stop glissandi, while the right hand
bowing/plucking is independently superimposed, revealing the otherwise silent actions of the left hand.
The harmonic material in the work is derived entirely through a limited number of prescribed hand positions and finger spacings,
applied through a variety of sliding and shifting schemes up and down the fingerboard. Furthermore, transmutational devices –
transposition, inversion, diminution, etc. – are reconsidered from physical rather than aural perspectives. Hand positions are
shifted along the fingerboard or exchanged between the four instruments in order to generate new sonic relationships by way of
identical physical positions/actions. In a sense, ‘material’ in this work is not the pitches and rhythms created by the performers,
but the actions employed to create those sounds.

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