In His Wild Eyes We Saw the Depths of Our Own Souls
For String Quartet
The Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival, 2013
June 6, 2013, by the Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival String Quartet; Penn Yan, NY
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This piece was written from a desire to reverse my composition/titling process. I wanted to experiment with discovering a pre-established title and basing all the compositional materials and structure off the narrative and environment that title creates. With this in mind, I began searching through a list of compositional ideas and subjects that I keep updated. I finally settled on the above title--a modified line from the novel Farenheit 451.
I felt that this title provided an incredible opportunity to compose wild and unpredictable music while containing a subtle look into the human condition. Often, when major events transpire concerning individuals or small groups, other members of society see these actions and discover some secret about themselves and humanity as a whole. When deaths occur, we are reminded of the fragility of our existence. When natural disasters occur, we are reminded of how helpless we are against the natural power of our planet. When a child is born, we are reminded of the incredible future our society could have. I wanted to capture this idea in a wild and unpredictable way in this piece.
With these ideas in mind, I set out to find discover musical materials that would lend themselves to the wild environment I wanted to create. I eventually settled on the use of octatonic scales to generate the materials. While many composers use octatonic scales, I wanted to utilize the duality of tonality and dissonance contained within those scales.
As the piece progresses, one can hear small hints of tonality in aligned octaves and thirds contrasted with sharp dissonances. Recurring motifs and textures are continually varied to create the sensation of moving forward while remaining unpredictable.
- Michael Henson