String Quartet No. 1 "Lanterns"

String Quartet No. 1 “Lanterns” was inspired by a poem written by the American poet, novelist, and short story writer Stephen Crane entitled “Each Small Gleam was a Voice”. In my interpretation, this poem creates a world in which sight and sound are intrinsically linked, connected by our inability to perceive either independently from the other.  Throughout the poem, Crane continuously creates a world in which sounds are only capable of being described through the use of color.

One line in particular, “Little songs of carmine, violet, green, gold.”, is repeated several times throughout the poem. In “Lanterns” each of these colors describes a distinct musical element from which the work was created. The piece opens with carmine, or rather, a chord progression built entirely from minor 6th intervals that repeat after ever four chords. These chords control the harmonic language of the entire piece, sometimes rather obviously or aggressively, and at other times disguised and completely hidden from view. The color violet is the interval of a minor 3rd, which appears sparingly throughout the first movement only as a harmonic motif and then builds in intensity throughout the second movement to help create the final climax, from which the piece concludes. Green is the sound of the major 2nd, which makes its appearance in the 2nd movement to create a more lyrical contrast in context of the work as a whole. Lastly, gold is the color of volume. This repeating sonic figure throughout the work is one that dynamically fades to its loudest point before fading out again. This is meant to represent a specific moment in the text, “a lantern voice”, in which you see the diffusions of light fading out on either side from its source. The work is in two movements:

  1. Blue Night
  2. Chorus