David Smooke - Composer


















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[Click image to view sample PDF score]

(for string quartet), 10 min., 1999.
Premiered by the Pacifica String Quartet, Chicago, IL.

Pacifica String Quartet, 1999

The Pacifica Quartet, for whom L’EDGE was written, is a string quartet whose players are equally capable of producing a perfectly-blended sound and of shining as soloists. This piece is designed to exploit both capabilities.

In thinking about ledges, I quickly realized that I was entering a world of dialectics. Sitting on the inside of a window ledge feels sheltered and gentle. Standing on the outside is an entirely different experience. Similarly, one looks up at the sky and the birds or down to the cold hard ground. This piece explores the different emotional costs from each side of the window, attempting an original synthesis to the dialectic. Throughout the piece, syncopated polyrhythms are interrupted by bird calls (the distorted calls of cardinals and black-capped chickadees) or glissandos. Long melodies dissolve into whispered harmonics or harsh overpressure.

In L’EDGE, the quartet is asked to produce a wide range of sounds from long bel canto melodies to unusual extended techniques. The lowest string of the ‘cello is tuned down a minor third to A (instead of C); this scordatura is exploited in two solos marked “harsh, with urgency”. Natural harmonics, including the oddly tuned seventh partial, are used throughout, as are passages tuned one-quarter tone flat. At times instruments are asked to play in the highest possible register on the fourth string or notes that are so high they are off the fingerboard. This range of sounds adds to the sense of vertigo the piece should convey.