String Quartet – The Sound of Tears

This music began its creation as one long piece for guitar. As with most of my compositions, this composition was formed in the early morning or late night, in my spare time. And some of it was created during our summer trip to Orcas Island. As it neared completion I realized that it would be too unwieldy, so I changed it into a piece with four movements. At a later time, I transcribed and further changed it into music for other ensemble groups.

The name is drawn from the idea of the crossing to Orcas island (a sound is a body of water), and the argument my wife and I had, which ended in tears.No.1:String Quartet The Sound of Tears 1


String Quartet 2 – Hope, Joy, and Love


My wife was disappointed that my previous work was so dark. I decided I would focus on positive feelings. As I focused on a word for each movement, my memories conjured up events and experiences that resembled those words. From those experiences and feeling, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms spontaneously emerged. This music was composed for guitar quartet and later altered and transcribe for string quartet. Hope:String Quartet 2 Hope

Joy:String Quartet 2 Joy

Love:String Quartet 2 Love

String Quartet 1

This music feels to me as though I’m on a train, traveling over time to different parts of the country, the geography, the texture, the moods change. But the train keeps moving, the underlying current is always propelling me onward. This music was composed for guitar quartet and later altered and transcribe for string quartet.String Quartet 1

Prayer of Faith

My central thought was to pay homage to all those that came before us, who provided for us, lived, and gave their lives, without them we would not be here. This idea was prompted at that time by the death of my father. But I was thinking of more than just my father. We descend from an unimaginable line of ancestors, each handing down love, each struggling, and each somehow making it through, so that we are given this life to live. It is a prayer for them, a thank you, they are remembered. This music was composed for guitar and later altered and transcribe for piano trio.

The Origin

Just as we now live our own lives, experiencing happiness and strife, joy and tears, our ancestors, through all the ages have also had their own experiences.  We will never know their sacrifices, their individual stories of love and labor.  They will never know ours.  But we all experience them, all of us, past, present, and future.

This music was conceived originally as a hymn, such as you might hear sung in a traditional Christian church.  In effect, it is a prayer.  It is dedicated to all of us, past, present, and future.  It is  an offer of faith, a prayer of faith, we give thanks.

It truly was initially developed as a traditional hymn, an eight bar phrase voiced with homophonic harmonies.  But instead of repeating the same, as if there were multiple verses, I continued developing, reinventing the melody and harmony, evolving and contrasting, while keeping it generally in the same framework.

Originally it was developed for guitar, there were a lot of block chords.   I then orchestrated it for the trio and began changing the texture and developing it further.

The Music

The first 6 measures are the introduction.  In fact, the first two bars are lifted from the middle of the piece, at measure 125, which functions as a transition.

The melody and first phase starts proper at measure 7, and continues through measure 14.  That first phrase is the heart of the piece, everything else is built from it.  Other phases are an answer, or sometimes a variation of it, some have a major and some have a minor treatment.  The melody in the first two measures, measures 7 and 8, are the heart of everything.   You will hear it repeated or echoed throughout the piece.

Measures 15 through 18 are echoes of the end of the previous phase and also a transition to the next phase that starts at measure 19, letter A.  The phase that starts at letter A is a contrast and an answer to the first phase.

Memorable Moments

The first phase, starting at measure 7, is very important, and the first four bars of the first phrase is the key.  The violin and cello provide a back drop of texture. The piano plays the two measure solitary melody with just one voice.  The next two measures an octave is added to the melody in the piano, the phase, harmony leading, and texture are building.  Then in the fifth measure of the phase, the violin takes the melody, the cello in harmony, while the piano adds more texture.

At measure 85 the melody is high, and the movement and texture is thin.  Everything descends to a gradual ritard and diminuendo that starts at measure 90 through the resumption of tempo at 93.  To me this stands out as a point in your life that stands your hair on end, that gives you pause, but then at the a tempo, life goes on; you carry on.

At measure 101, letter “G”, the momentum picks up with the movement in the piano, life is moving on with purpose.

The retard at 111 and 112, with the soulful melody in the cello, and then the continuation of that melody and the a tempo at 113, represents, to me, picking yourself up after a low point and continuing the struggle.

The section beginning at measure 145, letter J, is a point where we can clearly see life, as if from a distance, an out-of-body experience, we are removed and yet observing everything.  And the result of all of that high, distant reflection of life is to be brought down to real life, to the earthiness of life, with the quieting and slowing that occurs before letter K.

Letter K represents yet another texture change, life is full of them.   But it builds back up to perhaps the highest point of the piece in measure 166, the violin and cello are high, and the piano has running, fast notes.  While that may be an adrenaline rush, is it more meaningful that the soft moments, such as the end of the section before letter L?

The four measures at letter L is one final flourish, a swell and then retreat.  And then the last of the piece is a settling, giving up of all of the activity.  The last four measure is a simple restatement of the original melody; it is a simple melody with a homophonic harmony, a peaceful, quiet resolution.

Here is a recording of a live performance from the 2015 January Jubilation Cascadia Composers concert,

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