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This is a preview of a proposed project.


To (re)position the guitar as the center point of a 21st century chamber music tradition for stringed instruments.


Quincunx is a chamber music cycle that is comprised of four duos: Symphonique: a concertante (violin & guitar); A Repeal of Reticence (viola & guitar); Sonantics (cello & guitar); and Four Aspects of Emancipation (bass & guitar). This is designed to culminate in a quintet—Quincunx—that includes all the instruments. This chamber cycle will be presented as a collaborative concert between the Connecticut Guitar Society and the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra in the 2018-19 concert season. Each of the duos will feature a different guitarist: Aaron Larget-Caplan, Daniel Corr, Trevor Babb, and Thomas Schuttenhelm, and the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra will provide the principal string players.

A quincunx is the design pattern associated with the number five that is most commonly found on a pair of dice. It was also one of the names proposed for the state that subsequently became Connecticut and thus it is an appropriate title for a project that involves two organizations that are based in the state. Beyond these two essential pre-compositional influences, Quincunx exhibits a deep awareness of past traditions while forging new practices that are nascent in the very nature of the guitar. Unlike many other instruments, the guitar has no fixed design: the number of strings can vary and so can the number of frets. There is no set tuning and the shape of the body is variable. Each time a composer sets about writing for the instrument its potential is actualized. Quincunx celebrates in this condition and extends it into the form and content of the music composed for the cycle.

Between 1915 and 1917 Debussy concentrated his creative energies on Les Sonates Cycliques. During this time he completed the Sonata for Cello and Piano, the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, and the Sonata for Violin and Piano. His original conception for the cycle included six sonatas. The fourth sonata was to be for oboe, horn, and harpsichord; the fifth for trumpet, clarinet, bassoon and piano; and the sixth was to “combine all those instruments used in the previous five.” Although he did not live to complete the entire cycle of sonatas their conceptual influence and experimentalism continues to inform contemporary developments and the design foreshadows many of the concepts found in late 20th and early 21st century music. Debussy’s spectral presence helped to usher in the modern era for the guitar when Manuel de Falla’s quoted “Soireée dans grenade” in the Homenaje pour ‘Le tombeau de Claude Debussy’, which is, by most accounts, one of the first “modern” compositions for the guitar.

In Debussy’s Late Style, Marianne Wheeldon wrote: “the sonatas… reveal the composer’s preoccupation with the historical affiliations of his works.” Historical affiliation has been central to the development of plucked stringed instruments and its influence on the repertoire is evident from the earliest intabulations and diferencias of Narvaez to the post-modern appropriation in Music of Memory by Nicholas Maw. Quincunx seeks to extend the progress that began with Debussy’s unorthodox and original chamber cycle to include the guitar.

Start and End Dates



Hartford, Connecticut

Project Created By

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Thomas Schuttenhelm is an American composer and guitarist whose compositions have a strong conceptual component exhibiting an ‘intentional belatedness’ that gives expression to the post-historical conditions of the 21st century. His music uses embodied programs and celebrates in allusions to the musical, literary, poetic, visual, and theatrical influences that resonate throughout his compositions. His compositions…

In Collaboration With

Boston, Massachusetts
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut