String Quartet No 2 (2006)

Dedicated to Grant Olwage
Composed during a residency at Visby International Composers Centre, Gotland
Recorded by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet on ‘Michael Blake: String Quartets 1 & 2 and Piano Quintet’ (MBED002)
Bardic Edition Score BDE 946; Parts BDE 946/1
Duration: 21'00"

Première

First performance: Wednesday 2 July 2008; Faroe Islands; Marselis Quartet (Copenhagen)performance details.

Programme note

I composed my Second String Quartet, a single 22-minute span, in the short space of three weeks during a residency at the Visby International Composers Centre, Gotland, in December 2006. Unlike my regular composing space in Johannesburg at the time — with its urban view and noisy soundscape — here I looked out every day on the peaceful Baltic Sea and a large congregation of ducks.

The loud percussive interlocking of the stringed instruments was inspired by performances of Tshikona, regarded as the Venda national dance, and involving large numbers of players each playing a single reed pipe while dancing. The contrasting quiet music, played extremely slowly at crotchet = 28, was probably inspired by looking out on the Baltic, prompting me to coin a new Italian expressive term, “Balticamente”. The mixolydian tune later in the piece appeared out of the blue.

I had been reading Adorno's quintessential Minima Moralia and prefaced the score with a line from it: “Thought waits to be woken one day by the memory of what has been missed…”

My Second String Quartet is dedicated to Grant Olwage who conspired with me to create the New Music Indabas in Grahamstown from 2000 until 2006. The first performance was given by the Marselis Quartet on 2 July 2008 in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. (MB)