String Thru

String Quartet with Phasing and Polytemporal Effects


stringthruThe composition for string quartet titled String Thru is a 2014 adaptation of a composition called Passing Thru written in 2009 for brass octet. String Thru was constructed to test all of the techniques I had developed to that point for incorporating phasing techniques and polytemporal effects using a video network system for synchronization.

String Thru explores numerous permutations of the rhythm Reich used for "Clapping Music"  :     . "Clapping Music" is written in 12/8 but conducted in 6/4 at 160 BPM. It consists of only two players (or two groups of players), each playing the same rhythmic pattern. During performance, after X number of repetitions of the complete pattern, one of the players (or one of the designated group of players) shifts its pattern-measure 1/8th note to the left, which now forms a new pattern as it plays against the group that did not shift. After X number of repetitions of this new pattern, the same shift-to-the-left happens, and another new pattern is formed as it plays against the group that did not shift. This cycle is repeated 12 times until all permutations of the combined patterns have been completed. A more detailed explanation of the "shifting-process" Reich used can be found here.

In my approach, the number of measures over which the accelerating (shifting) instrument moves, the change in the tempo acheived by the "shifting" instrument, the maximum tempo of acceleration (or deceleration), the point where the maximum acceleration is reached, and the length and tempo of deceleration are all calculated in advance. In that sense, the shifting of all notes and rests is built into the composition and happens during performance as one group maintains the original tempo while the other group changes tempo.

Two separate scores were produced for String Thru:

1. A Rehearsal Score--

The Rehearsal Score disregards phasing and polytemporal effects, making it easier to rehearse various passages without worrying about tempo offsets. The justification for producing two scores is examined in greater detail on different pages here and here.

It's just easier to work on one section of the music -- like two bars before Letter C -- when you don't have to incorporate the tempo variations that might be going on at that point. After all, we were all trained to play together, and now, all of sudden, I'm asking you to play "apart." I can assure you that if you start the rehearsal by using the Performance Score, the players will not be able to follow what is supposed to be happening, and at that point, all enthusiasm for the piece will leave the room.

A copy of the Full Rehearsal Score can be found here.

2. A Performance Score--

A Performance Score is used with the synchronized video network system. Only by following the visual cues assigned to unique videos for each instrument --where a different conductor's video is produced for each instrument -- are the phasing and polytemporal effects accomplished. One segment of the tempo maps used in StringThru can be seen below.

stringthruThe tempo chart on the left shows the placement and shape of the various tempo ramps contained in String Thru. (Note: The document is mislabeled Passing Thru rather than String Thru). The photo does not include later changes made to the composition, one of which drops the tempo for all instruments down to 88 BPM and then climbs back up over a 24 measure section to 160 BPM. Another change I added lets the 2nd violin play in a completely unrelated tempo and time signature before rejoining the group at 160 BPM.

You will notice that at the end of the piece, the tempo drops to zero. This does not indicate the piece is finished at that point. Rather, each instrument decelerates to zero tempo at a different rate over the next 4 measures. In other words, the central rhythm falls apart at the end via a deconstruction of the tempo. Instead of a fade-out, there's a "tempo-out", which achieves the same ending.

Just where and how tempo adjustments to the Performance Score for String Thru are made can be found in a rather lengthy, complicated chart, which can be downloaded here.

An mp3 audio rendering of String Thru can be heard by clicking here. If any links are busted, it means I am still busy constructing the basic text and format of this website. I will begin uploading the supporting files after that task is completed. Just give me a little time and then check back, or send me an email and I will notify you when those files have been uploaded.