“ ‘My Comic Book Fantasies’ is about my relationship with the string quartet, and confronting the format that is deeply entrenched in our musical tradition for the first time. I have never written for a string quartet before; I have doubted its relevance to my own personal practice (“why should I write for this group of instruments simply because a lot of people have done it in the past?” was a question I asked myself frequently) and felt the historical baggage of the format would get in the way of what I wanted to say through the music I wanted to write.
Recently however, I began to question my own attitude towards historically entrenched instrumentations, in particular the string quartet. When this opportunity to work with Red Note arose, I realised it would be a great opportunity to challenge my approach and see if I could answer these recurring questions I have about writing for traditional instrumentations.
There are many pieces for string quartet that I like. There are many things about string quartets that I like; the musical and sonic possibilities that the combination of instruments offer, and the potential to create a feeling of intimacy in the music and the performance of it are a couple of examples. I realised that these are things I like about music for other instruments too, so I had to ask myself – why do I not feel comfortable expressing myself through this medium as opposed to others?
For this reason, I decided to take a piece of music (a song called ‘Love Triangle
’ by a band called HTRK) that I feel embodies these qualities but comes from a very different sound world and tradition (that somehow is less intimidating to me than a string quartet) and use it as a musical starting point for the piece. This posed a challenge that I felt was key to answering these questions I had; I wouldn’t normally be comfortable writing music like that in the context of a string quartet, so throughout the writing of piece I had to try and reconcile this material with my personal language of instrumental writing. I wanted to see if I could retain the personal connection I have to the material in this very different context of a string quartet, and by doing so allow myself to use this medium to express things that I perhaps wouldn’t have been comfortable expressing in the past.