For String Quartet
Premiered at The Juilliard School by
Alex Shiozaki and Justyna Jara, violins
Leah Gastler, viola
Valeriya Sholokhova, cello
This work is a musical representation of the inner world of Quentin Compson, the character in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The novel delves into the tragic downfall of a Southern family in the early twentieth century. Central to the decline is Caddy, the only daughter in the Compson family. It is her promiscuousness and her illegitimate pregnancy that sets in the motion the mechanism of the tragic fall.
Caddy plays a major role in the lives of her three brothers: Quentin, Jason and Benjy. In the novel, Faulkner tells the family’s story through the eyes, minds, and emotions of each of the three brothers using the stream of consciousness narrative technique.
This works represents a sort of musical stream of consciousness as experienced by Quentin Compson on his final day. Quentin’s voice in the novel is that of a decadent poet: neurotic and hopeless. He seems to only want to relive the past when his sister was still pure. He is unable to face the future, which eventually leads him to suicide.
The quartet is not programmatic but it depicts Quentin’s inner thoughts and struggles through the alternation of musical styles and motives. At the outset, the music alludes to Mahler, Wagner, and Debussy, in a somewhat exaggerated style. However, the motive associated with the sister Caddy quickly enters and begins to act as a degenerating factor in the musical narrative.
The motive appears in a variety of guises, but it is never far away. No matter how hard Quentin tries to hold on to the purity and beauty of the past, he cannot escape his present anguish. Quentin’s “romanticized” music comes in and out focus, often crushed under the heavy pressure of his memories of Caddy. Towards the end of the piece, almost all semblance of a traditional musical discourse has been lost the quiet undulations of a ruminative mind at the brink of exhaustion.
Alex Shiozaki, Violin
Justyna Jara, Violin
Leah Gastler, Viola
Valeriya Sholokhova, Cello