Lookout is a bit of a confessional: despite having playing a string instrument for most of my life, I’ve never written a string quartet. It felt only fitting, then, that for my first go at the genre, the piece would be for a very unconventional version of this group of instruments. ETHEL are, most noticeably, amplified, which lends itself less to the delicate harmonies that pervade much of the quartet repertoire of the last 300 years, and more to fast, driving music (that might also just be me).

I was more excited, though, by the idea of having both low voices—viola and cello—on the outside of the group. As a cellist, I played so many frankly boring bass-voice parts that I wanted to give the low voices a workout and bring them to be at least on par with the violins. Viola and cello take the lead throughout, including in beginning and ending the piece; I’ve often given them melodic material, either in a high or low register, that might ordinarily be reserved for the violins. The result is, I hope, a vaguely vengeful attempt to bring the classical quartet traditions that I became so familiar with to my own language. Lookout is dedicated to ETHEL, with excitement, is in two parts, and lasts about 11 minutes.

instrumentation amplified string quartet
premiere fall 2016
written October 2015 – March 2016
duration 11′

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