Bird-esk : string quartet
by Hollis Taylor (2008)
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Bird-Esk for string quartet is based on the song of the pied butcherbirds in Esk, Queensland. Pied butcherbird vocalisations often boast a compelling rhythm and raw energy reminiscent of certain jazz styles. Lively syncopations and phrase endings on weak beats are common in their sound repertoire. Since my previous works for strings focus on issues of rhythm and bowing, from dance forms and compound meter to how classical players can appropriate extended techniques from non-traditional styles of music in order to enhance their rhythmic vitality, swing, and musicality, I wanted this major work to build on pied butcherbird themes particularly suitable for rhythmic exploration. I found such material in the pied butcherbirds from Esk, Queensland.
In the autumn of 2008, dawn chorus and later diurnal participation by the Esk birds (perhaps eight or ten in number) consisted of overlapping duos, trios, or larger groups, with participation (to these ears) sometimes loosely timed. I followed the birds around a several-block radius, recording everything possible. After transcribing their vocalisations, I made a rule for this composition: I would take every notated phrase, and I would take each in the order it had been delivered. I also accepted the original pitches, making adjustment for octaves as the various string instruments required.
Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, cello.
Duration: 14 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional.
First performance: by Hollis Taylor String Quartet — 8 Dec 08. Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Ultimo Centre, Sydney
Winner of APRA/UWS composition award 2008.
- Has as subject/About: Birdsong
Performances of this work
8 Dec 08: Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Ultimo Centre, Sydney. Featuring Hollis Taylor String Quartet.
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