BOOTLEG SUGAR LIPS
String quartet Bootleg Sugar Lips was commissioned by choreographer Kathleen Dyer as part of the evening length dance work, A Complex Sum. I have a long-standing collaboration with Kathleen; we've created over ten dances together. In one of the beginning rehearsals of this latest work she had already starting setting new choreography to John Adams' string septet Shaker Loops. She had wanted the same gesture of the quivering strings in Adams' septet to be in my yet-to-be-composed piece. Sometimes Kathleen creates a dance phrase first and I'll try to match it musically. For this dance I had to come up with music that reflected the energy in Adams' work. Jokingly, I entitled the first sketches of the quartet "Bootleg Shaker Loops." Through a misunderstanding by the dancers the name morphed into "Bootleg Sugar Lips" and the absurdity of it was catchy enough for a permanent title.
Perspectives, for string quartet, unfolds slowly with the viola playing a descending two note motive. Pizzicato cello notes punctuate the ends of the viola’s part, as if responding to a musical question. I structured this piece to be a conversation between all four instruments. When the second violin enters, it presents a repetitive gesture that sounds as though it’s completing the viola’s musical thought. The first violin’s entrance is a sustained, quiet note that almost sneaks into the conversation. From there the first violin plays a low, repetitive eighth note melody that becomes the catalyst for the rest of Perspectives. The eighth notes turn into sixteenth notes and the melody is transformed into a fast, swirling gesture punctuated by accents in the low strings. Gradually the music unwinds and resembles the calm of the opening.
From opens with a halting recitative between the viola and cello. The viola’s first eight notes represent a sighing gesture that forms the main motive of the piece. There is space between each utterance of the motive until it gradually builds momentum with all of the players joining in. It isn’t often that I use silence in my music, but this piece called for a reflective tone. The mood of From remains somber throughout, with a few bright spots provided by a climbing melody in the first violin. It was commissioned by KDNY Dance.