A finalist for The American Prize for Chamber Music, City Walks was most recently performed in 2015 by the Elysian Camerata in the Philadelphia area. It has previously been performed at the HellHot Festival in Hong Kong and by members of the Magik*Magik* Orchestra as part of the You Are Hear festival at San Francisco International Airport. This 12-minute piece for string quartet in one movement was premiered by the Eidolon Quartet in Berkeley, California in May, 2009.
I began composing the string quartet City Walks at the end of 2008 after finding a few pages of music for string quartet deep in the caverns of my computer’s file system. I had absolutely no recollection of composing this, and if it weren’t for the date stamp on the computer file, I would have no idea when it was from. (It was 2004.) I was also so surprised by how well written it was that I doubted at first that it was my own work! So using this music, which ultimately became the second theme, marked “Andante Affabile” in the score, I set out to come up with a set of ideas that would contrast and complement this.
At a certain point in the composing process, it began to occur to me that, although this is a one-movement piece, it keeps moving and picking up new material as if it were in several movements, yet it still carries elements of what’s been heard earlier as it progresses. A contemplative, almost cantorial cello solo at the beginning gives way to a lyrical, sauntering theme. A tender little melody crosses the threshold into melodrama. A macabre dance unfolds into a facetious extended coda.
The title “City Walks” came about because the form of the piece started to remind me of a linear walk through some city, where the environment changes as you move through various neighborhoods, yet you somehow know you’re still in the same place. The street signs are all brown, say, and there’s a lovely Craftsman typeface on all the public buildings, yet each neighborhood has its own distinct feel. So it is with the string quartet “City Walks”.