String Quartet No. 1, “Unvanquished Space” (2017)
I. A Labyrinth Submersed – to Jay
II. The Gleaming Cantos of Unvanquished Space – to John
III. Peripheries of Light – to Austin
IV. Into Silence – to Christopher
String Quartet No. 1, “ Unvanquished Space”, takes as its point of departure the epic poem “The Bridge” (1926-30) by American poet Hart Crane (1899-1932). Published in 1930, just two years before his suicide, this work is often described as a unification of mythology and modernism. It is characterized by numerous interweaving references and metaphors related to the American experience and also by a complex, labyrinthine web of allusions. Crane uses the myriad cables of the Brooklyn Bridge – one of the most important architectural feats of his age – as structural pillars of the text. The poem is a journey across the American continent, starting and ending in New York Harbor, with the Brooklyn Bridge as a central focal point. It reflects utopian ideals that are continually shattered by the violence and agony of the modern world.
The compositional structure of String Quartet No.1 is inspired by Crane’s section IV, Cape Hatteras, which is a portion of the North Carolina coast notorious for its extreme meteorological conditions. At the peak of the chapter, Crane makes allusion to “the gleaming cantos of unvanquished space”, a crucial turning point in the text referring to man’s aspirations to conquer the air. The work, dedicated in friendship and with admiration to the JACK Quartet consists of four movements, each dedicated to a specific member of the ensemble. Special thanks to Risto Nieminen, director of Gulbenkian Música.