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Ravelation (quintets: 2 violins, viola, 2 cellos)

by Jennifer Fowler (1971)

Audio Sample

Performance by Arditti Quartet, Alan Brett from the CD Works of Jennifer Fowler. Transcriptions Disc 5

Works of Jennifer Fowler. Transcriptions Disc 5


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Ravelation : for 2 violins, viola, 2 cellos / Jennifer Fowler.

Library shelf no. 785.715/FOW 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

Ravelation consists of two contrasting ideas: on the one hand, static, unchanging or slowly-moving elements without directional pull; and on the other, a directional movement, or "tendency". The basic shape of the "tendency" idea traces a gradual rise in intensity, followed by a partial falling back.

This shape may appear melodically: as a long curve upwards with a shorter return down. It may appear in the rhythmic spacing of notes; in the density of texture; in the intensity within a phrase; or in the relative length of phrases within a section. It may appear in the directioned movement of dynamics; the relative register used in sections of the piece; even in graduated control of bow attack.

The contrast between the one idea of relative stillness, and the other of the onward drive of the "tendency" shape, generates the tension of the piece. The two ideas are often present simultaneously: either in two instruments in the same parameter, or in one instrument in different parameters. Several simultaneous patterns may be gently counteracting each other's "tendencies", so that the crude higher-plus louder-plus-faster kind of directional movement is avoided in favour of a more subtle overlaying of patterns.

The notation of the piece is designed to indicate the importance of relativity in building these patterns. The moment that a particular event occurs in one instrument is sometimes necessarily stated in relation to the other instruments (as in the playing of chords). At other times the players are required to indulge in a flexible give-and-take of events, without the usual rhythmic guidelines (precise rhythmic notation). Micro-intervals, which are often asked for, are not always precisely notated. Sometimes notes are indicated, not by traditional means, but by instrumental fingerings, signs indicating shifts along the fingerboard, and so on.

The title Ravelation comes from the verb "to ravel" - to wind together (the opposite of "unravel"). It is dedicated to the memory of my father, who died while it was being written.

Work Details

Year: 1971

Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, 2 cellos.

Duration: 18 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: In memory of my father

Commission note: Written for the Radcliffe Award of Great Britain

First performance: by Allegri Quartet, Terence Weil — 5 Jan 72. Wigmore Hall, London, UK

Shared 1st prize, Radcliffe Music Award, 1971. 1st prize in chamber music section of Competition for Women Composers, GEDOK, Mannheim, Germany, 1975

Performances of this work

Feb 73: At the Festival of Perth, WA. Featuring Oriel String Quartet, Jill Cole.

5 Jan 72: Wigmore Hall, London, UK. Featuring Allegri Quartet, Terence Weil.

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