calm before the storm

May 28, 2015 recording at WLC

On May 28, we recorded the final segment of #6, the retrograde first violin solo, having already finished at our March 16 session, the “backwards” cello.

Above is a screen grab from our recording engineer’s Facebook post on May 28, commemorating the occasion. (We hadn’t arrived yet when the photo of mike setup was taken, but believe us…we were there, that day!)

Next up was rehearsing and recording the first movement of String Quartet No. 7, which throws every pitch known to humankind (and then some) into the mix.

We recorded #7 mvt I on August 29 and 30 at a different venue, a recording studio instead of a hall, because ambient noise is more controllable.

We will start rehearsing #7 mvt III on November 18. The surge of microtonal activity begins!


progress with SQ#6

Ben and quartet at church for coachings in summer
Ben and Kepler Quartet at church for coachings in summer

Over the past 6 months we have continued rehearsing and recording SQ#6. On Dec. 19, we recorded the “backwards” versions of the violin II and viola solo sections. In January, we rehearsed the cello solo section intensively, but a family emergency forced us to move the recording date to March. After that, all that will remain of #6 is the retrograde first violin solo.

The “forward” and “backwards” violin II solos were virtually identical in character—both rather placid and serene, which seems appropriate as these solos bookend the raucous middle chordal section. Providing more of a front-to-back contrast, the “forward” viola solo had been bizarrely athletic and dance-y, while “backwards” was like rhythmic accented speech. Whereas cello “forward” had given the impression of a fairly conventional Romantic lyricism, “backwards” cello has a harder edge to its delivery. The tempos marked in the score are increasing with each of these solo sections, from the midpoint of the piece onward. Retrograde first violin promises to be a more caffeinated version.

During the summer months, we also spent a significant amount of time delving into quartet #7 with Ben. This is the veritable ‘Mount Everest’ in his cycle when it comes to the pitch set. There are over 1,200 discrete pitches in this monumental work (Sharan is calling the last movement ‘Syntonic Verses…’).

Tim Johnson, our audio programmer, joined us for a few of these #7 sessions. As with #6, we are finding many copyist’s errors. Fully corrected #6 and #7 scores that we could eventually furnish through the publisher’s catalog may be another welcome byproduct of this project. We would like to do the same for Ben’s other quartets.