Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020

Degree

Master of Music (MM)

Department

Composition

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

String Quartet No. 1 “Lanterns” was inspired by a poem written by the American poet, novelist,

and short story writer Stephen Crane entitled “Each Small Gleam was a Voice”. In my

interpretation, this poem creates a world in which sight and sound are intrinsically linked,

connected by our inability to perceive either independently from the other. Throughout the

poem, Crane continuously creates a world in which sounds are only capable of being described

through the use of color. One line in particular, “Little songs of carmine, violet, green, gold.”, is

repeated several times throughout the poem. In “Lanterns” each of these colors describes a

distinct musical element from which the work was created. The piece opens with carmine, or

rather, a chord progression built entirely from minor 6th intervals that repeat after ever four

chords. These chords control the harmonic language of the entire piece, sometimes rather

obviously or aggressively, and at other times disguised and completely hidden from view. The

color violet is the color of volume. This repeating sonic figure throughout the work is one that

dynamically fades to its loudest point before fading out again. This is meant to represent a

specific moment in the text, “a lantern voice”, in which you see the diffusions of light fading out

on either side from its source. Green is the interval of a minor 3rd, which appears sparingly

throughout the first movement only as a harmonic motif and then builds in intensity throughout

the second movement to help create the final climax, from which the piece concludes. This color

represents the “small glowing pebbles” line of the text. Lastly, gold is the sound of the major 2nd,

which makes its appearance in the 2nd movement to create a more lyrical contrast in context of

the work as a whole.

Committee Chair

Gibson, Mara

Included in

Composition Commons

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