How to kill a string quartet

So, I'm writing a series of string quartets. Not because I'm very fond of string quartets, but if I'm going to write something to drive away the boredom, I might as well do it in 4 voices. Voice-leading, fooling around with the harmony, a bit of counterpoint, it's all more fun with 4 voices. I'm sure you all agree.

Even before I was writing a series of quartets (on an easy playing level, because there aren't that much really good players) I got interested in music for chamber orchestra. I'll probably write for a string ensemble, add a basso continuo (bass and harpsichord) and throw in the occasional oboe or flute. Like my friend Bach did. You should listen to him. He was an excellent composer. I even think one day he will be famous.

I wrote the string quartets half absent-minded while thinking of the concertos. Usually my mind drifts away during the proces. That could be the result of an injury (I've had a cracked skull as a child) or because I'm an idiot savant. Anyhow, I finished the last part of string quartet X and thought: Thank God. Next day I immediately saw that it didn't fit in. It was too much Baroque and too little me. The first three parts sounded alright, but the fourth part sounds like someone else sneaked it in.

What to do? I could write three other parts, or rewrite the fourth part, but at the moment I'm a fed up with writing for string quartets. I'm no longer feeling bored in general. It's the string quartets that started to bore the hell out of me. Besides, who really likes string players? With their wax and hairy bows.

Anyhow, I'm not going to hide the mistakes I make. We're all here to learn from each other. So I give you an example of how things work out if you're too easy going. Without smoking pot. I'm Dutch, but I don't smoke.



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  • Thank you. Good text presentation. A fluent string story. A little melancholic but there are no signs of boredom.  

  • Pleasant and easy to listen to. Accomplished writing in this style I'd say. Baroque. I haven't dissected your score to look at the counterpoint but it sounds good!

    If you're happy to compose with traditional CPP that's fine. You'll certainly sell music in such a vein although I find anything pre-Debussy a little overdone now. I was trained in it (to include all those nice things like the augmented 6ths, tonic chromatics and such) and still fall to it in my work but have no wish to rewrite classical music. I'm more of a symbolist, a five-way cross between Elisabeth Lutyens, Debussy, Delius, Villa-Lobos and Bruckner. I have to be careful with Bruckner...

    Ah doesn't seem a good idea to pursue a musical style if it bores one....but each to their own. Have you pondered on a wind quartet/quintet/sextet?

    Bests, Dane.

    • Thanks, Dane. No, I'm not happy with such a traditional style. That's why I wrote that it was too much Baroque and too little me. I'm planning on weaving a free counterpoint style with my own lyrical style in the upcoming concerts. Is just that I got distracted and this piece slipped through. It is as you say, accomplished writing, nothing more than that.

      I've tried a wind quartet. It was nice, for a moment. I tempered with the thought to go all Renaissance on a wind ensemble, but I never got around it.



  • I've decided to throw this composition away and write a new 4th part. That way I can save String Quartet X. I've started other projects today, but I'll probably write some more string quartets in the near future.

  • Did you yank the video Rowy? I can't get  it here. On never mind. I guess you did.

    I guess the creative process is different for different people. I know the feeling of having a part that doesn't seem to fit or seems like it was added later. Why does it have to be 4 parts if  3 work ok? 

    • I killed it. It was a cuckoo's egg. That happens if your mind is wandering off and you trust on skills instead of inspiration. I got away with it in the past many times. But this time the cuckoo snuck through.

      I need 4 parts. All the other quartets have 4 parts. I would get a nervous break down if one of the quartets has only 3 parts. I'm going to write a new 4th part and then I'm calling it a day. Ten string quartets is more than enough. Together with 35 older compositions for string quartet that makes a total of 10 x 4 + 35 = 75 compositions.

      And I don't even like string quartets :-) But is was a good training for my next projects.

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