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Kevin Fisher May 7, 2012 Music Theory - Urquhart 20th c.

Experimental Approaches Short Paper According to Professor Ellie Hisama from Columbia University, Ruth Crawfords String Quartet 1931 is one of the finest modernist works of the genre". This piece contains four movements, but for the purpose of this assignment, we will focus primarily on the third movement, which was eventually rearranged as the Andante for Strings. The instrumentation for the third movement is based off the idea of sound mass, which means the primary purpose of the piece is no longer based around the actual notes or pitches. Instead, the texture, dynamics, colors, timbre, shapes, and gestures are what the composer is attempting to animate and enliven. The melodic line of the third movement jumps between each of the voices through the subtle crescendos and diminuendos throughout the entire piece. The instruments are all equal as no one instrument sticks out more another at any given point. The melodic line is not present in any one voice either. Our attentions shifts between all the voices until the break at measure 75, where the ensemble plays triple-stops in unison. From the beginning until this point, the registers are so cramped and there is constant voice exchanging/crossing. At points, the second violin plays higher than the first violin. The dissonant counterpoint happens while these lines occur between voices with a gradual build of tension until measure 75. These sounds may have extrinsic connections to events or situations that Crawford has experienced in her life. There is not one exposed theme that sings a melodic passage of emotion, but instead, a cluster of many different sensations at once. The climax of the piece comes at measure 75 with the string triple-stops. This is the presentation of all of the inverted and separated textures coming together as one. The break in the piece

represents the coming-together of Crawfords belief in dissonant rhythms and harmonies. Everything in the piece is based on timing. The internal crescendos within each measure is supposed to come at a certain time that is directly connected with the diminuendo that follows in the same instrument or even a different instrument. The high points of one line always contrast with the low points of another line. Perhaps this is an allusion to something historical outside of the score. Eventually, each individual instrument plays at a higher pitch than every other instrument, as if each instrument were racing up a ladder against every other voice. Each voice reaches its highest register and dynamic at the climax at measure 75, which is known as the break. The range is huge at the break where they completely split apart. The similar pattern that accelerates until measure 88 reinstates the unknown themes and meanings that are only understood by the composer. These dynamic gestures with certain timbres replace the melodic lines that we are so used to. The overall shape of the piece must be understood in reference to something quite close to the composer this could be something historically important, or even an emotion or sensation the composer comprehends much better than any music theorist or analyst.