String Quartet No. 2
“History really is a ‘process without a Subject or Goal(s)’… History therefore does not have a subject, in the philosophical sense of the term, but a motor…” – Louis Althusser, Remark on the Category: “Process without a Subject or Goal(s)” in Reply to John Lewis (1973)
Over the past decade, I have become interested in transforming identities of instruments over time; for example, I may assign a bass instrument to play nothing but high pitches—higher than some of the soprano instruments—causing cognitive dissonance. My interest in instrumental identities has become more pronounced with my recent experience of living in Japan for two years where, having lived in the United States for nearly twenty years, I experienced a reverse culture shock, a kind of struggle others in Japan could not easily see or understand because I, after all, appeared just like them, and the cultural code there obliged specific kinds of manners. In my Second String Quartet, my initial interest was to cause senses of heterogeneity within the homogeneous instrumental formation by highlighting a distinct instrumental identity as demonstrated by each of the four instruments. That element is still there; however, ever since I came across the aforementioned passage by Althusser, I could not help but think more about how such a homogeneous-heterogeneous relationship would be perceived in the context of a piece of music. Whether to believe in Althusser’s writing or not, what I sense from his passage is the deliberate distancing from progress as the necessary factor in the unfolding of time. In this “Original Version” of the String Quartet, I reflected on Althusser’s notion by drastically slowing the speed of musical materials’ development, and unfolding the music in a spiral manner where, in each iteration, there are phenomena that remain identical, but also there are things that subtly change. Or such changes might not be perceivable at all. String Quartet No. 2 is written for Quatuor Diotima in my deep gratitude for a decade-long friendship. This piece was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation.
Performance History02/20/2020 WP
Whitmore Recital Hall, University of Missouri-Columbia