I am seeking support from New Music USA for the creation of a new theatrical string quartet piece for children, The Lost String Quartet, based on N.M. Bodecker’s delightful illustrated children’s book and featuring my original music, theater direction and narration by Fernando Villa Proal, and the interdisciplinary prowess of my own string quartet, the Momenta Quartet. We will premiere the new work over four consecutive days for over five hundred inner city children under the auspices of The Time In Children’s Arts Initiative in early December 2017.
The Lost String Quartet is a far-fetched story about all the terrible mishaps that befall a string quartet on its way to a concert in the thick of winter. By the time they make it there, the cello has been destroyed, one of the violins is lodged within a tire, the other violin is stuck to a bag of frozen peas and the viola has been swallowed by a boa constrictor.
The music for The Lost String Quartet will not be incidental music for a play, but rather a fully integrated theatrical piece in which the members of the Momenta Quartet serve as actors and musicians. Fernando Villa Proal will narrate and take the stage from time to time, representing the various characters the quartet encounters in its misadventures.
Using the ebullient Finale of Mozart’s String Quartet in G, K. 387 as a point of departure, I will cast the piece as a set of variations, with each one becoming more outrageous as the story develops and the instruments are compromised, culminating in a final movement played on homemade instruments.
I have been gestating this work since buying the book from a Broadway street vendor over ten years ago. While I make my living as an improviser and performer of contemporary music, I returned to composing my own music in 2014. The piece speaks to my strengths: incorporating through-composed and improvisational elements, and my years of experience playing in a variety of experimental settings, including Skip Laplante’s Music for Homemade Instruments. My first string quartet will be a major landmark in my career, and I look forward to writing for the Momenta Quartet, with whom I have tackled other theatrical quartet works by Tan Dun, George Crumb and Mauricio Kagel.
I met Fernando Villa Proal this past October, while in Mexico with the Momenta Quartet, and absolutely loved his inventive and hilarious two-man rendition of Lope de Vega’s farcical El Principe Ynocente.
The most important aspect of The Lost String Quartet will be its audience: over five hundred children from inner city Harlem public schools who participate in the programs of the Time In Children’s Arts Initiative. For many of these children, it will be their first experience of a live string quartet and their first exposure to contemporary concert music. By connecting live music performance with Fernando’s comedic sense and N.M. Bodecker’s whimsical story, we hope to provide a delightful experience, which they will remember fondly in many years to come.