Three Pieces for String Sextet



With gratitude for another commission from the celebrated violinist Irina Muresanu, I’m able to chart a new horizon: experiment with the sonorities of the less familiar instrumentation of 2 violins, 2 violas, the violoncello, and the contrabass. The first movement of this work, subtitled Udje: Dance of the Missing Sweet was repurposed from my African rhythmic Study No. 3, though with a little reference to a motivic tune from Act 2 of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. In the second movement, subtitled Mshila: Guiding Spirits I found another medium to explore new ideas with the Pende tale of motherhood from the Congo region in central Africa. Perhaps the unintended crown jewel of this commission would be evident in the third movement, subtitled Tales of the Spider — and there are indeed many ‘spider tales’ around Africa and in the African diaspora, especially Haiti and Louisiana (“Compair Bouki” and “Compair Lapin”), Venezuela and Cuba. This final movement thus was inspired by variant tales alluding to Spider’s witty plot to pitch Elephant, “King of the Land” against Hippopotamus, “Queen of the Rivers” and somehow, the usually gallant horse is complicit in Spider’s trickery to bait the two rivals. And, as with most African stories, nothing is more exhilarating than when it all culminates in a spontaneous dance celebration!


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