MATT SARGENT (b.1984): Separation Songs for String Quartet.
Catalogue Number: 11V076
Label: Cold Blue
Description: Sargent is a composer and music technologist with an interest in acoustical phenomena and recursive systems (in which an event is directly dependent on those that preceded it) - admirers of Alvin Lucier will find this familiar. Separation Songs is based entirely on material from four-voice hymn tunes in William Billings’s "New England Psalm Singer" (1770), so in terms of harmony and melody (and playing style), this is what the music "sounds like". The experimental aspect of the work, that separates it from pleasant string octet transcriptions of the hymns is that the ensemble is used as two quartets exchanging material between them, which with each repetition reassigns notes from one quartet to the other, the resulting gaps filled in by prolonging the preceding tone. Over the course of the continuous hour and a quarter work in 53 'variations', the result is that the material is presented in longer and longer loops, while texturally tending toward sustained chords in new rhythms, the melodic outlines increasingly subsumed in the harmony. Easy to listen to as a kind of 'ambient' music, but also with a distinct, and accelerating (the 'separation' algorithm functioning exponentially) sense of direction and progress. Eclipse Quartet.