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The Mares of '33 (2010)

The Mares of '33 was commissioned by the Anubis Quartet and completed in August of 2010. I began by composing a very fast, acrobatic melody, heard in the first two measures, which evolves through a series of modulations. The melody is too large in rang to be covered by any one player, so it is split between all of them, as in the Medieval compostional technique of hocket. Each of the players carries a rhythmic subset of the melody, which is then maintained, even as the melody is drastically diminished in range. I saw this as the first modulation in the piece. Each successive modulation retained a different parameter (register, dynamic, pitch, rhythm, meter) from the previous section, as a way of gluing the piece together. The hocketing also activates another crucial element of Mares. By splitting up the original melody between the four players, it is not only divided in terms of pitch and rhythm, but also, spatially. Tiny spatial canons arise in the texture, allowing the sounds to rotate and swing like a pendulum.


The Mares of '33, takes it’s title, from Nabokov’s Pale Fire, which contains the phrase “The Gulls of ’33 (are dead of course)”. The piece is dedicated to my grandfather, who taught me how to build whatever I could dream up as we worked together in his wood shop for many years. I changed the animals to mares, because they are my grandfather’s favorite animal. Coincidentally, he was born in 1933.

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