dedicated to Ali Helnwein
Instrumentation: 2 Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Violincellos
Duration: 43 minutes
Sextet for Six Stringed Instruments was written after Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 of 1899. Borrowing only loosely associative structural elements while adhering to a similar trajectory inherent in Schoenberg’s formal design and idiomatic part-writing, Sextet for Six Stringed Instruments is an original work differentiated by its lack of literary source material, an emphasis on texture, and its tonal language as exemplified by the use of discursive harmonic pathways.
The aim was to replicate a mood, to capture the totalizing and evocative atmosphere which Schoenberg’s piece instantiated, and to re-envision the gestures of an era now fading into distant historical memory. Sextet exists as an echo, as an anachronism. A quote from Theodor Adorno puts it forth critically:
“The new musical material, emptied of its sense, is transformed into deadening stimuli by its endless repetition. Scarcely felt is the obligation of achieving that uniqueness of the work, that unrepeatableness enjoined on musical composition by the emancipation of music from all pre-established form.”
Aesthetic disjunctions occur throughout history. I believe that Verklärte Nacht represents the precipice. The score and its acoustical actualization represent a psycho-physical manifestation of real musical-historical-time. Excavating this lost, uniquely carved physical-time as it is embodied in sound has led me to Sextet for Six Stringed Instruments, which understands Schoenberg’s piece to fall roughly at that point during which, as Adorno would have succinctly emphasized:
” … in the form of a sort of all-purpose musical language … a thoroughly baseless and cheap irony … replace genuine artistic realization. Music that strikes up the pose of a tradition that is no longer substantive, and even technically no longer present … “.