Strawberry Field Theory

Program notes

Strawberry Field Theory explores the possibilities for improvisation in the context of string-quartet writing. The first movement, "The Worm Returns," was composed gesturally, as a series of shapes and movements passing through ever-shifting harmonic fields—a term that generalizes traditional chords or scales by representing the differing importance of different notes. (The title of the piece refers to an earlier work, "A Roiling Worm of Sound.") The score exists in two forms; one contains extensive room for improvisation, while the other is a written-out "realization" of the improvisation for conventional quartet; players are also allowed to mix and match the two versions according to their preferences. The music is aggressive and unrelenting almost until the very end.

"The Sad Kid" is in a more conventional string-quartet-does-jazz idiom, with a bit of an Eastern-European flavor. It is based on an odd, polyrhythmic jazz tune I wrote more than a decade ago. Again, the soloists can either improvise or play written-out versions of their "improvisations." There is also a brief but unavoidable quartet improvisation just before the recapitulation. The movement was inspired by a real-life Kid who used to walk past my house twice a day ... it is a soundtrack to his imagined inner life (which is a bit less gloomy than his outward appearance).

"Pulse Dirge," by is peaceful, nostalgic, and comparatively uncomplicated ... a fluttering heartbeat or maybe eyelash. Almost nothing is notated conventionally, though the music does move between moments of greater and lesser specificity. Hopefully the title will be less contradictory once you hear the piece.

Again, all three movements exist in two forms, one more-or-less conventionally notated, the other largely improvisational. I am excited to hear a fully improvised version this year!

Instrumentation: string quartet