String Quartet No. 3 (Old-Time) was composed on the occasion marking 400 years of history dating from the days of the first European settlements. My specific task from the Hudson Commission was to concentrate music based on the natural habitat and beauty of the Hudson as well as on the time of the first European settlers. It was natural for me to think about old-time fiddling in this light. In 1909 Washington Irving described the Catskill Mountains as a "dismembered branch of the Appalachian Mountains." My own Dutch ancestors settled in the Hudson Valley in the early 1600's, and eventually traveled down the Appalachians to settle in the South in the early 1800's. The old-time fiddling that dominated those areas along that route is the musical language utilized in creating this String Quartet.
For the musical genesis of the Quartet, I initially created phrases from the fiddle that were molded out of old-time fiddling tradition. With technical twists and turns, the phrases became unique and new but all the while still connected to the tradition. It is these phrases that I used as material to create the String Quartet. Through the process of composing, techniques such as re- harmonization, development, canonic applications spill over each other like the Hudson tributaries in the Adirondacks. The counterpoint of the Quartet invigorates and establishes itself. The result is a wholly participating body emphasizing transitions from the traditional to the contemporary in sound and style. The music here is no longer fiddle music as the inventions of the quartet embarks on a new story, a new way to play, and with a new musical idea to put forward.
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