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for string quartet

Year:  1989   ·  Duration:  13m

Year:  1989
Duration:  13m

Jack Body

Composer:   Jack Body


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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 its 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."

From notes by Charles Amirkhanian
for the CD "Ring of Fire" © 2008 Other Minds

Performance history

Performed by Del Sol String Quartet

Performed by the Del Sol Quartet.