Strange Folk

string quartet

duration: 11 minutes

Strange Folk was premiered by Hannah Stitzinger, violin, Rachel Patrick, violin, Megan Fergusson, viola, and Anne Patterson, cello, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI on February 6, 2006.


Program Notes:

The first movement of Strange Folk was composed in a few days for a reading session with the Enso String Quartet. I am normally a methodical worker but in this case I was forced to compose quickly with a minimum of self-editing. The resulting piece flowed surprisingly easily onto the page and was quite different than anything I had written before. After the reading, ideas started pouring out for other movements. I wrote all nine movements quickly, though spaced out over the course of several months. They are all miniatures (or at least mostly-miniatures) but they group themselves into three larger sections each with three movements.The music contains gestures, phrasing and sounds reminiscent of folk music, especially Eastern European traditions, but nothing is consciously derived from a particular source and the piece feels to me like one of my most personal works. My own background is Estonian, but though there are musical moments that feel Estonian to me, I think the sound of Strange Folk may have more to do with absorbing a medley of folk and vernacular music while growing up as well as experiencing folk music ‘second hand’ through composers like Bartók, Veljo Tormis, Janácek and Stravinsky. My ancestors in Estonia would have been called simple folk or land folk by the Germans who had colonized Estonia beginning in the 13th Century; I sometimes wonder how they might have heard this music, or if it would have resonated with any of the music flowing through their world. The piece is 11 minutes long.