August Dramas

2 violins

Commissioned by the Euclid Quartet

 Premiered By the Roseels String Quartet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in February, 2001.

Years of the modern! years of the unperform’d!
Your horizon rises, I see it parting away for more august dramas…
–Walt Whitman

August Dramas, a set of five character pieces for string quartet, was written towards the end of
1999 for the Euclid String Quartet, who were at the time in residence at Kent State University. These
pieces, though musically quite distinct from one another, are, aesthetically, an exploration of emotions and
characteristics common to all human experience.
“Fortspinnung,” named after the Baroque technique of “spinning” an entire musical composition
from a single, brief, energetic motive, reflects the rapid, often mechanical pace of life at the turn of the 21st
century. Yet inherent within all of us, and thus within this movement, is a need to slow down this frantic
rhythm and take time for meditation. The temptations and struggles of the world, however, are never far
“Song (Not) of Myself (Psalm)” is the first of two spiritually minded pieces in the set. It is a song
not of man but of God. Yet it is grounded in man’s experience, singing outward toward the Creator rather
than inward to himself. It reflects the inherent need in all of us for a deeper knowledge of the divine,
regardless of how we choose to explore it.
“Imps” and “Übergeige,” on the other hand, have no such lofty concerns. This is music of
playfulness, humor and great virtuosity. “Übergeige” should seem as though it is being played by a single
performer on a giant, extremely versatile “superfiddle.”
“O Magnum Mysterium” was the first piece in the cycle to be completed and returns to the
concerns of the spiritual world. This is a work of contemplation. The music is static and largely
unchanging, without beginning or end. We, as listeners, simply join it in its progress. A small glimpse of
the eternal.
August Dramas is dedicated to Evan Chambers.