String Quartet No. 4 ("Icarus in Flight")

For string quartet
June, 1st 2018
Noe Valley Chamber Music, San Francisco
Telegraph String Quartet
  • Program Notes

    Icarus in Flight

    In modeling the earth¹s changing climate, my new quartet, Icarus in Flight, uses historical data on
    population growth, carbon emissions and land-use transformation, during the period 1880 projected out to 2080, to control certain aspects of the music.

    • Population growth controls the average density of musical events over time, increasing, in the worst case, by a factor of 9. In this context, density means the number of musical events in a given time period (if more than one instrument initiates an event at the same time it is still considered one event).
    • Carbon emissions control the frequency range of the music, from lowest to highest pitch, increasing gradually from a perfect fifth in the middle register to a span of 6.25 octaves, before collapsing to almost nothing.
    • With respect to land-use, an increase from 13% to 43% of the earth¹s land surface devoted to human use (i.e. habitation, agriculture and grazing) is represented by the increasing proportion of music that is played with specialized timbres (tone colors), including mainly pizzicato, tremolo bowing, and bowing close to the bridge (producing a fragile timbre characterized by a greater proportion of high frequency partials).

    The era of international cooperation on climate change begins circa 1979. If one listens closely one can hear fleeting moments of repose on the interval of a major 3rd marking the dates of international meetings.

    Icarus in Flight is comprised of three large sections played without pause: the first representing the years 1880 to 1945, when the data are growing slowly; the second from 1945 to 2015 when growth accelerates exponentially; and the third from 2015 to 2080. In the last section, our future, the controlling data alternate between the best and worst case future scenarios (i.e., representative climate pathways 2.6 and 8.5) based on the models developed by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations. Each year occupies eight seconds of musical time, the entire piece lasting about 27 minutes

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Icarus in flight premiere
Kinetech Dance piece, to Icarus in
The Real News Network, Telegraph Quartet interview about Icarus in Flight
The Real News Network, Festinger interview about Icarus in Flight
National Academy of Sciences event on Icarus in Flight