Vanitas is a piece written for string quartet and electronics. The piece was written during a dark time, and naturally the music reflects this, being full of archetypal imagery of multiple suns blazing both white and black, moons casting great shadows, cypress trees, a bell tower on a hill, a primordial summer dance interrupted by a storm…
‘Vanitas’ is divided into three movements, each having it’s own small ‘narrative’.
Movement I : Mix Tape
The first movement ‘Mix Tape’, was the last of the three movements that I composed. It is an evocation of an idyllic summer in the far north, full of longing and nostalgia. There is a beauty, and at the same time a sadness.
The movement starts energetically with a midsummer dance. The atmosphere I hope to evoke is inspired by my experiences in the subarctic during light summer nights; the sounds of the forests and mires, and the brilliant energy in the vivid colours and smells of the wild plants.
Half way through the movement, the party is suddenly interrupted by a dark storm.
The form of the movement is that of a slightly broken ‘Rondo’; musical ideas keep returning in a variety of guises.
Movement II : Soma
Standing in between the two outer movements inspired by summer and winter (and the sun), ‘Soma’ is inspired by the moon. This movement was sketched in September 2015. I recorded and looped myself playing synths using an old mini-cassette dictaphone. Since the tape is so old and worn, and the small microphone intended for only speaking, the result is a decayed / distorted, melancholic ambient music. The title of the piece, which came immediately to my mind as I made the music, refers to a mythical concoction that grants those who drink it immortality. I had not even thought of writing a string quartet at this stage.
Movement III : Love Song
‘Love Song’ was composed, more or less entirely in one sitting, on Saturday 14th November 2015. The piece that arose on that morning came naturally as a stream of consciousness. A diary entry in which my feelings are recorded.
Throughout the majority of ‘Love Song’, the cello plays a drone on the open A string, and as the rest of the quartet’s music moves away from this note, the cello continues undisturbed. In contrast to the first movement, the third movement represents my sense of the ‘light in darkness’; like the sun suddenly shining through the clouds on a grey winter day, the music in this movement slowly builds to a blazing climax.
At the very end of the movement is an ‘Epilogue’ that mirrors the middle (storm) section of the first movement ‘Mix tape’.