Dominic Muldowney: String Quartet No. 1 (1973)
Dominic Muldowney's quartet was composed in 1973, whilst he was still an undergraduate at York University; it is in a single, continuous movement, but has three distinct sections. Both pitch and rhythm are often indefinite, and even in the central section, which is precisely notated, Muldowney warns the players that rhythm and intonation are "…very difficult to get precise; but this is intended - the effect should always be rough and somewhat vulgar!"
At the time, he was coming to the end of an obsessive interest in late romanticism, with its exaggerated long-drawn-out melodic lines, rich and sensuous harmonies, and inflated structures.
"The Quartet", Muldowney says, "is my own swansong to an interest in a culture that had already been described as being 'at one and the same time a swansong, and a death-bed repentance'. So the 'over-the-top' hyperemotionalism that begins and ends the piece is very much the seed of its own destruction - the typical restrained image of the string quartet shattered by the gestural force of the four independent musicians pursuing their own emotionally saturated paths. This violence frames an uneasy and long middle section, where all the while lurk allusions to the violence already heard, and yet to come - like the long slow climax that becomes an anti-climax by being masochistically muted; and the ever-present scratching sounds that turn the sweetest harmony sour. These add up to make a work that is at once impetuous and feverish, and lacking relief and repose".