Everchanging Light: String Quartet No. 4

Completed on January 23rd, 2010

This is my second work written for a collaboration with the Phoenix Art Museum, the fourth string quartet written during my studies at ASU, and my first completed piece of 2010.  I was one of four composers selected to write a work that reflected a permanent piece in the museum galleries entitled Mohl ip by James Turrell.  As the museum describes it on their website, the piece is “[o]ne of the latest additions to the collection is a monumental commission by the internationally renowned ‘sculptor of light’, James Turrell.”  What the piece consists of is a square glass panel that slowly shifts colors as operated by a computer program.  The cycle of colors is very slow and subtle, but noticeable, progressing through approximately 2.5 hours before the display will ever repeat itself.

The composition is only loosely based on Turrell’s creation.  What I decided to focus on was certain colors that seemed to be rather prominent during the time I spent staring at this massive exhibit.  Coincidentally, these colors ended up being the primary colors of light:  red, blue, and yellow.  From there, I followed up with some general information regarding each color to establish moods for the movements.

The first movement is entitled Prelude:  Red and focuses on the conflict between red’s stereotype of symbolizing rage and its lesser-known psychological effect of being one of the more calming colors in the visible spectrum.  Needless to say, the movement focuses on red’s expectation of being aggressive and angry, resulting in just being awkward for trying to embody something it is not.  Movement two is called Quasi-passacaglia:  Blue, and focuses on its nature of purity, neutrality, and divinity.  Harmonically, the pitches come from an adaptation of the accoustic scale – a major scale with a lydian fourth and a mixolydian seventh – but this time also includes a minor 3rd.  Melodically, this inner movement is quite stagnant, relentlessly adhering to the passacaglia, all the while rising in volume and register.  The conclusion of the movement is a fade back into the solo line of the passacaglia, still ticking away since the beginning of the movement.

Scherzo and Finale:  Yellow encompasses a few ideas regarding this deceptive color.  The first is that yellow is often associated with fear, thus there is a frantic and unsettling aspect initially presented.  Many people would consider this color a cheery one, though psychologically, it is the most aggressive color in the visible spectrum.  Because of that, there is a mix of subtle happy dancing that quickly fades into a more angry outburst.  The conclusion of the work calls on the more lyrical section of the first movement, as well as restating the head motive of the entire work and quickly ending in a flash.

Everchanging Light: String Quartet No. 4


Score Readable PDF Score of Everchanging Light: String Quartet No. 4

Upcoming Concerts

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Past Concerts

Kurt Mehlenbacher, composer  

Date Venue City More
04/24/10 Grand Hall, Phoenix Art Museum Kurt Mehlenbacher, composer in Phoenix [+/-]
04/19/10 Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State University School of Music Kurt Mehlenbacher, composer in Tempe [+/-]