Culs-de-sac (en passacaille)

for string quartet (2009/10)


String Quartet

Study Score available for purchase


Dedicated to JACK Quartet and my father on his 65th birthday.

For me, string quartet is one of the most problematic instrumentations to write for. But it is not for the musical reasons; indeed, it is one of the most perfected formations in terms of the instrumentation, and from the performative perspective, too, it may well be the pinnacle of “chamber” ensemble—small room, performers facing with each other to allow the very intimate communication. Instead, I find it problematic—even fearful—because the repertoire of the ensemble is innumerably large. After so many brilliant works—from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven to Ligeti, Holliger, Xenakis, Lachenmann, Saunders and … and …—what is possibly left for me to say? 

I started writing Culs-de-sac (en passacaille) as that sort of apprehension and self-doubt. The medium’s intertextual baggage seemed to be excessively heavy. But it was probably the first piece that made me realize, in the fundamental sense, that even the idea of “newness” was relative, and that it was well worth the challenge to try something new to myself. It was the piece in which, as I wrote it, I was determined to embark on the journey of constructing the instrumentarium of sound according to my view, which would admittedly bear some traces of influence from the past. But that journey to twist, divert, even contradict such influences, however minute it may be, became one of the foci of writing this piece, and it became one of the fundamental mottos for the pieces that followed. Later, based on this piece, I decided that I would write a cycle for string quartet and its subsets, entitled Les six aspects du néant, and this work is Piece III in the context of the cycle.


Performance History

Thin Edge New Music Collective
918 Bathurst, Toronto
Ongaku Festival

JACK Quartet
Orangerie, Darmstadt, Germany
Ferienkurse in Neue Musik Darmstadt

JACK Quartet
(le) Poisson Rouge, New York

03/01/2009 WP
JACK Quartet
Tenri Cultural Institute, New York
Columbia Composers Concert

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