commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Doris and Myron Beigler and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
String Quartet No 2 "Hunting: Gathering" (1987)
When I wrote Hunting: Gathering in 1987 I had grown tired of the ‘composition etude’ - the one-idea piece. I decided to try and write a piece which included as many different musical fragments as possible, strung together in a pseudo-narrative. To keep the fragments separate, each is written in a different key. As I wanted the different pieces to come and go in a random fashion like images or events on an unplanned journey, my principal problem was how to move from one key to another without any sense of development (i.e. without modulating). I was also consciously trying to keep the overall scale of events constant, not allowing one piece to dominate others unduly - rather like viewing everything against a fixed background. Although the piece is in three sections it is conceived as one movement or, more precisely, one journey, and should therefore always be played in its entirety.
In Hunting: Gathering I made reference to many different pieces of music:
ranging from very rough approximations of style to more or less precise transcription. The principal ones are: the first half of the ritornello melody at the beginning of the piece is derived from Maz sa goala (the lyre of the initiates), a piece of the music of the Hamar of South, Ethiopia,there’s a fleeting reference to a variant of the Shona mbira tune Nyamaropa (Zimbabwe) at bar 65; at bar 1-25 a remembered unaccompanied tune sung by two (Xhosa?) girls (I’d lost the original source when I wrote the piece). at bar 162 the style, but not a quote of lesiba music from Lesotho (the lesiba is a single-stringed instrument which is blown!); Malienne kora music at bar 265; and a small set of variations on the piece Muthambe (bar 387f) which was played by a famous 19th century mbira player and medium, Pasipamire, of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. There are also several more private references to Scarlatti, Handel, Stravinsky and my own earlier work. With the exception of the mbira pieces all have been harmonically or melodically altered and, on occasion, combined with one another to suit my purposes.
The piece was commissioned by Doris and Myron Beigler and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts for the Kronos Quartet.