J.M. Quartet No. 1 (2020)
instrumentation: clarinet, piano, violin, and cello
J.M. Quartet is the first piece composed for and dedicated to four of my friends at The Juilliard School. A group of five obsessively artistic friends can lead to countless wonderful and disastrous moments. The four movements are interconnected, where the thematic material of Movement 3 stems from Movement 1, and likewise of 2 and 4. Additionally, Movements 1 and 4 share the same form, as well as 2 and 3.
Movement 1 showcases our wildly exciting adventures. The main theme is constantly interrupted by jolting clusters and fractals of the theme. When a melody is played, yet offset by a step, another instrument will correct or respond to it, like when the Clarinet plays the second half of the melody down a half-step, the Cello echoes what should be the “right” concluding note on a harmonic. This symbolizes our active conversations and perhaps most of the time, arguments (or discussions). Another theme has a special title, “Gute Nacht," which is based on a resolving tri-tone.
Movement 2 reflects a relaxing evening with a gentle theme introduced in the Piano. The second section modulates, introduces a new theme, and quotes the third theme. One time, Cameron asked, “what are the coolest chords you know?” The Piano responds with a “cool” chord progression that, like going off on a tangent, almost resolves a few times but does not until later.
Movement 3 focuses on individuality and expression, like the productive and heartfelt conversations the five of us occasionally have. In contrast to the other movements, the voices express full, uninterrupted statements. This is demonstrated through a Violin and then a Cello cadenza, an elongation of the theme through the Clarinet, and finally, a tying together of the themes from the Piano.
Movement 4 combines the many emotions and personalities of this piece. The theme shifts roles between the main melody and the accompaniment. The speed of the theme varies, sometimes juxtaposing in different voices. The theme also leads to meter changes, and at the end, a metric modulation, where the pulse of the new tempo is derived from the old tempo.
These four movements signify a whimsical adventure that is our friendship in “J.M. Quartet No. 1.”