String Quartet No. 2 is a 40-minute work cast in four movements. The opening movement of the quartet was conceived as a kind of violent musical event, relentless in its intensity. The movements that follow unfold as remnants of that event, growing more shaded, colored, and distant as the work progresses.
An emphasis on instrumental color and shading resulted from this conceptual point of departure. Namely, three timbre altering elements are woven into the work. First, the use of scordatura, or the re-tuning of the instruments, is applied. In this case, only one string on each instrument is affected, and in each case that string is only re-tuned by a quarter-tone. The result is an “out of tune” musical universe that slides in and out of the work, capable of bending the music in different directions simultaneously. Second, there is a progressive use of instrumental mutes, which are applied as the work unfolds, from the standard mute to the wooden and rubber practice mutes (large mutes which significantly change the color of the string instruments). Finally, the liberal use of natural harmonics (resulting pitches of higher frequency produced by lightly touching a string at specific points) are applied.
As the piece unfolds through its form, the above elements become more prevalent, and by the work’s conclusion, consume the music entirely, even as the remnants of that initial musical explosion grow more distant, shaded, and quiet, until the music itself disappears.
String Quartet No. 2 is dedicated to the JACK Quartet.