Nocturne (Global Warnings) for guitar quartet (2008)

duration: 12:00'

first performance: Atlantic Guitar Quartet, 14th November 2015, Baltimore

additional performances: Illinois State University Guitar Ensemble

Please email me if you're interested in performing this piece!



Programme Note

One of the compositional goals I set myself with "Nocturne (Global Warnings)" was to translate basic electronic music processes into music for acoustic instruments. So the playing techniques and musical ideas in the piece often emulate the familiar electric guitar effects of delay (echo), filtering, looping and flanging. A particular focus was the idea of digital delay (not used electronically in the piece, but emulated entirely acoustically by the players!) used as a means of generating a variety of cross-rhythms. Different groups of instruments (or sometimes one instrument within its own part) are called upon to play at different pulse speeds simultaneously--in some cases there are effectively four different meters running at the same time.

The music is essentially monolithic in nature, and is concerned primarily with harmony, rhythm and timbre. A variety of playing techniques is employed, some of which are standard, others less so. For example, extensive use is made of tone colour transformations to simulate a filter or tone-control. The players achieve this by gradually varying the plucking location along the length of the string. They are also called upon to play with a range of additional techniques including tambora (a combination of "drumming"; and string resonance), pizzicato (muting the struck while plucking it), harmonics, and even bowing the guitar with a cello bow.

The work's title conjoins the idea of a "night" piece (more restless than restful) with a programmatic aspect which grew out of my reaction to seeing the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Leaving aside any arguments over the validity and possible responses to the issue of global warming, the thing I find most perplexing about the whole matter (as well as other similarly complex social and political issues) is the feeling of ambivalent paralysis that seems to cling to it. My piece's use of the children's rhyme "Frere Jacques" (which seemed to grow organically out of the music I was writing) helped me to try to capture this feeling.