for string quartet
date: 1998 (rev. 2004)
first performance (revised version): 24 February 2005; Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, NJ; The Brentano Quartet
availability: for sale
recording availability: non-commercial
detailed instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc
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The five short movements comprising the Celestial Sketchbook were composed in the winter of 1998. I was deeply inspired at that time by "outer space," and began reading relatively simple books (Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time and The Birth of the Universe by Trinh Xuan Thuan) to try and deepen my knowledge and understanding of the cosmos.
I named the five movements Swirling Galaxies, Constellations, Space, Time, and The Astral Expanse, respectively. The first, third, and fifth movements are slow, and while they are different from each other, they also share a common thread of sound through the use of artificial harmonics. The inner movements are faster and more rhythmically driven.
I do not have much faith in music’s ability to concretely communicate pictures, images of objects, places, or circumstance, and these pieces are not intended to “illustrate” the phenomena for which they are named. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that they are an attempt to capture a snapshot of the feelings of awe, wonder, and profound exasperation that continue to accompany my intellectual wanderings on the subject of cosmology.