John Adams, Second String Quartet

David and I heard the St. Lawrence String Quartet on Sunday at Bing Concert Hall. It was their twenty-fifth anniversary, with works by Hayden, Adams, and Beethoven. The composer John Adams was there to talk about his new composition!  So prolific. See here. He said he felt like a chihuahua between two great danes on the program, but to me his composition was so much more interesting, since he totally engaged all four instruments. And of course, it was more modern. Plus he mentioned he used software for one of the small themes of the quartet to actually take parts of a Beethoven piano sonata and turn it around, manipulate it, and then have it stand as a part of the string quartet. I first visualized this as Marcel Duchamp's cubist, "Nude Descending Staircase," although I guess finding the sonata would be more like finding something you recognize in a painting that you didn't expect, not a full composition mixed up. I wish I could do this with a painting... A real journey that could be a painting in motion...When I listen to this particular Adams music, I am drawn to a landscape, and feeling the hike as I walk through that landscape. I could work hard to follow the original pattern of the Quartet (and be quite lost unless I listened to it many times) which is enjoyable, OR I can think of the path of the hike through the landscape as I listen -- to stumble or find. This mode of searching ties me to the process of painting. You listen to Adams' piece, you'll need to wait till later next year, when Adams has finished his tour. Until then you can listen to Adams first Quartet here . There are other examples of travel tied to music and painting: Hockney created music sets for his car with cameras, and then took friends for convertible rides through Southern California. Also Hiroshige's "53 Stations of the Toikaido" are another example-- see woodcuts here.

View from Stalheim, Dahl, Norway, 1842

View from Stalheim, Dahl, Norway, 1842

Road Across the Wold, Hockney, U.K., 1997  

Road Across the Wold, Hockney, U.K., 1997