Multitude, Solitude (2013) - For String Quartet
For String Quartet
“Multitude, Solitude” focuses on the presence of multitude in a moment of solitude. It is inspired by a vivid memory on Aldeburgh Beach, which I visited in the summer of 2012. Aldeburgh is a small town on England’s eastern coast, sitting along the North Sea, home to both fishermen and Benjamin Britten’s Aldeburgh Festival, in which I was participating. One dusk I walked alone on the shingle beach, seagulls calling forlornly, circling overhead, their paths gracefully crisscrossing high in the sky, while the North Sea beckoned, crashing resonantly on the pebble shore. I was captivated by the peacefulness and beauty of the moment, the solitude I felt, but also by the multitude that accompanied me. Two or three gulls flew overhead, and then hundreds more joined, creating a dense constellation of birds, reaching as far up as I could see. The sea itself was a vast multitude, breaking on the thousands of shingles on the shore.
I take these elements as a starting point and develop them musically, following them to new places. In the opening section you will hear a lamenting melody, which passes through the quartet, set on top of a background web of delicately shifting harmonic glissandi. As the piece progresses, the music becomes more passionate, and you will hear a multitude of voices, both fighting for prominence and also working together to create unity.
The phrase “Multitude, solitude” is a quotation from Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, a collection of prose poems that he wrote describing city life. I moved to New York City a few months before my trip to Aldeburgh, and Baudelaire’s line was in my mind as I strolled on the beach. It was my initial intent to compose my quartet using Baudelaire’s phrase as a way of reflecting on my newfound experiences living in New York – how I find moments of solitude amidst the multitude of the bustling city. Instead, my experience on Aldeburgh’s beach inspired the reverse – how I saw the multitude that exists within a moment of complete solitude. Perhaps my sensitivity to nature’s quiet was heightened by months of living in New York, where the city sounds are an enveloping presence. I think of this work as a product of my experiences in both Aldeburgh and New York, whether felt directly or indirectly in the music.
"Multitude, Solitude" was commissioned by the Momenta Quartet and was made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation.