The five movements of my suite are arrangements for violin and piano of various occasional pieces of mine composed between 1996 and 2002. The final movement is subtitled Snow Flurry as the original upon which it is based was written during an early winter snow storm in Toronto in November, 2002.
The ‘Elgin Marbles’, taken from the Parthenon, lie at the centre of a long-standing property dispute between Greece and the British Government. Encountering these sculptures in the British Museum for the first time, I was intrigued to learn that one of the decorative motifs adorning its carved stone form was known as ‘egg and tongue’. The sensuously rounded forms of eggs and tongues alternate and repeat along the borders of the monumental sculptures, an ancient pattern combining symbols of virility and fertility. The motif is widespread: several years later, walking through the ruined architecture of the Syrian city of Apamea, I found tumbled-down stones of Roman structures bearing this same pattern, rain-washed stones in a field of crocuses. In the music of Egg and Tongue, I play with ideas of patterning and fragmentation, cultural property and style. Familiar motifs repeat, adorn, are lost and take new shapes.
Composed in 1989 for the Kronos Quartet, Epicycle is rarely played due to its level of difficulty. The unrelenting running patterns, filled with displaced accents, changing meters, and hairpin hockets (rapidly played interlocking phrases passed from player to player) are just a part of the challenge. Jack Body explains, “When I write for string quartet I like to think of the instruments as equal partners within the same register, each with its own quality of sound, not in the vertical hierarchy – from cello upwards towards the first violin that we normally hear from a string quartet. This makes strenuous demands on the cello of course, who must ascend into the violin’s register, since the reverse is not possible.
Since I first composed Epicycle for the Kronos quartet in 1989 I have always been dissatisfied with tis brief conclusion. In 2004 I decided to rectify this and wrote a new final section (the third) which is a kind of antithesis of the rest of the work – instead of a single line melody we have chords; instead of just employing the upper register we explore a fuller spectrum of sound, though still based on the original circular melody. Thus Epicycle concludes.”
The title “Equali” expresses the idea of sharing between two similar instruments. This happens in a variety of ways in the eight duos, but I was particularly interested in exploring the interweaving and crossing of the two violin lines and the idea of dividing ideas between them. I have always been drawn to the idea of duos, whether for equal or unequal instruments clarinets or keyboard. But the warmth and expressiveness of stringed instruments has a special appeal, which I hope comes across in this set. They also exist in a version for two violins.