STRING QUARTET No. 2 “Fear of Death/Love of Life”


Year Authored (or revised): 


Instrumentation : 

string quartet: 2-1-1

Duration (min): 



Fear of Death
Hymn: In Growing Awareness of Beauty’s Presence
Love of Life

My second string quartet, “Fear of Death/Love of Life”, is a work I have been planning for many years, in part out of a sense of personal necessity that is both rooted in my musical practice and outside of it. The piece is about confronting, and hopefully transcending fear, as its subtitle implies. The original concept for the work was as a diptych, which now in fact constitutes its outer movements. The piece moves from a world of collapsing, anguished harmonies toward a joyously free romp, with a simultaneous transformation of its language from highly dissonant to more consonant. It became possible for me to write the work only when I had conceived of the second movement as a bridge, a sort of nocturnal hymn that grows increasingly ecstatic over its course. Its primary theme is derived from a tune I first discovered on the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute). While the music is designed to follow a progression from darkness to light that has more general overtones, it is also a portrait of a very difficult and soul-wrenching period of my recent life. The work was completed in summer 2001 at Yaddo, which is thanked for providing such an ideal environment for creative work.

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