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Matthew Aucoin

Publisher: AMP

Soft Power (2018)
Commissioned by the Union College Concert Series in honor of the 18th President of Union College, Stephen C. Ainlay & Judith Gardner Ainlay.
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
5 Minutes
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  • 22 APR 2018
    Soft Power World Premiere
    Union College Concert Series, Schenectady, NY
    Brentano String Quartet

It was only six minutes long, but composer Matthew Aucoin's new work, titled "Soft Power," was an arresting highlight of the Brentano String Quartet's Sunday afternoon concert at Union College's Memorial Chapel. The piece is the first commission in the 46-year history of the concert series. From the opening notes, "Soft Power" was bold and sculptural. A B-flat Major chord shudders into existence and is repeated at a moderate pace and dynamic, with that same stuttering attack, at least a dozen times. Meanwhile, a quiet and thick melodic line is passed among the players like a rope linking together the steady flow of chords. Suddenly, the chord is played with a shift of voices (the same notes in different registers). The change arrives like a revelation. The towering harmony continues to be repeated at a measured, breathing pace. Eventually, there's one more version of B-flat Major to arrive and be repeated. There was a luminous quality to all of this. Somehow the air around the music had its own presence, probably owing to the Brentano's delicate, thoughtful touch. Finally, out of nowhere the composer jumps off a precipice and lands us in the busy, scribbly world of Milton Babbitt and Elliott Carter. Three phrases of atonal filigree and the whole thing is over.
Joseph Dalton , Times Union ,23/04/2018
Both Steinberg and Aucoin use the word "meditative" to describe the new work, "Soft Power." According to Aucoin, the piece attempts to create a synthesis between what he calls process music (better known as minimalism) and the thorny style of atonal writing. "It's about the power of a gentle calming gesture," he says. Aucoin doesn't claim to have a regular meditation practice, but he admitted that amid his busy professional life a feeling of calm may be something to aspire to. "People often make the assumption that a piece of music shows who the composer is," he says. "I think we tend to write where we want to be rather than where we are. If you're going to write a piece that goes into a trancelike state, you have to put yourself into that state to write the piece."
Joseph Dalton , Times Union ,19/04/2018
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