"The extraordinary intricacy of the part-writing for the four players, and the varied performing techniques that they must keep bouncing off one another, made Quiet Time a fascinating sound mélange, one that was warmly applauded by the audience….."
-The Boston Musical Intelligencer
Quiet Time was written during the summer of 2004 while I was in residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. It was written for the Cassatt Quartet, a wonderful string quartet that I've had a long association with. In fact, they had asked me for a new piece to complete a CD they were making of another string quartet of mine, Quartetset, which they had premiered nearly a decade before. Knowing this, I decided to make my new piece, Quiet Time, connect to the old one.
The connection, call it commentary, reflection, revisitation, is not particularly dogmatic. Nonetheless, on as basic level they do share some details in common. Both have seven movements, and though the parallels are at times quite loose, the movements of the newer quartet reflect, albeit rather obliquely, those of the older ones. In Quartetset there is a basic division of material into two worlds - probably most obviously presented in the last movement, where the simple, diatonic material in the second violin is constantly juxtaposed with discordant material in the other instruments . Quiet Time explores this further, but in a distinctly different manner.
In this piece, the division is into source and processed material, a sort of purely instrumental fantasy on computer based digital signal processing. We hear "primary" material undergo such processes as filtering, reverberation, ring modulation, delay, and time compression. Thus the basic dialectic in Quartetset - tonal reference versus non-tonal, dissonance versus consonance - here becomes natural versus artificial sound. In the first movement, Antiphon, for example, the first phrase, which presents the quartet in a warm full-bodied mode of articulation, is answered by a"processed" repetition of the phrase, now as if passed through a ring modulator and low-pass filter. In the third movement, Reverberation, the second violin plays lyrical fragments which are enveloped in a rich resonance - the rest of the quartet functioning as a resonating chamber, elongating, ephemeralizing each note. Clearly, the two quartets also have their differences. Quartetset is a rather sprawling work, over 45 minutes, and Quiet Time, by comparison, is much compressed. The sound world of Quiet Time is very different from it's model, as a whole, both more varied and more ephemeral. The name Quiet Time of course, to some extent, reflects this overall sound world, but it is also intended to embody the environment where it was written. The piece is dedicated to the MacDowell Colony, which provides solitude, quiet time, freedom from every day life, beautiful landscapes, like-minded souls - almost everything I could think of wanting.