Resonant Composer

The Music of Craig Woodward

The Continuous String Quartet Project


The Start:  The String Quartet (SQ) as a genre has long been a nemesis of mine. Perhaps it was the assignment as a student to write a first quartet, an attempt that never made it past the drawing board. Or maybe it was the fact that there are not only a  dauntingly large number of famous quartets, but also many of these composers have written a dauntingly large number of quartets. So let’s just pull out the list: Beethoven has 15 plus the Grosse Fuge, Shostakovich also has 15, Mozart has 23, Haydn has 68, Bartok and Ferneyhough have six each, Carter and Scelsi each have five, Cage has four, including “30 pieces for String Quartet”, Ligeti has two amazing quartets, Feldman has four (only two entitled “String Quartet”, but one is about 100 minutes and the other is six hours long), Stockhausen has his Helicopter Quartet, and Crumb has Black Angels. So where was there room for a Woodward quartet or two?

And then there’s the issue of having a second violin. Let’s face it, there are a great deal of issues that a composer faces when dealing with instrumentation, both from a historical perspective as well as an artistic one. My response to this compositional pinnacle, after a frustrated string trio (again, no second violin), was to write another string trio ten years later. The “SQ,” as I had dubbed it, had become a dubious task.

The Idea:  Ten years after setting out to become a composer, I finally wrote my first SQ. In my Ph.D. at Rutgers, I was assigned to write a SQ as a take-home composition during my comprehensives: complete a two-movement SQ in one week! And I had an idea that changed how I look at the SQ: instead of writing a “String Quartet No. 1” that was to enter the holy canon of SQ, I borrowed from Cage and Feldman ideologies and came up with this idea. I would write a series of string quartets that would be continuous. Eventually, after a lifetime of writing SQs, some master group could record the endless hours of SQ I had amassed. Take that, Feldman SQ #2 . Thank you, Mr. Cage.

The Continuous String Quartet Project: A series of String Quartets that explore connections between the physical realm and perceptual space. Any SQ may be performed/recorded in any order. These “meditations” all roughly follow the same premise: to create a connection between sound and science, perception and conception. For example, if one could actually freeze light, what would it sound like? Is light something that can actually stand still in time and frequency?

Here are the completed SQs:

  • Meditations on the Condensation of Water  (2011)  10′
  • Meditations on the Perceived Stasis of Light  (2010)  11′

FP: 6 December 2011, New Brunswick Art Gallery, New Brunswick, NJ

Flux Quartet

  • Meditations on the Blurred Space of Momentum  (2010)  3′

FP: 30 May 2011, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, NJ

  • Meditations on the Momentum of Blurred Spaces  (2010)  6′

FP: 30 May 2011, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, NJ

Currently this project is on hold due to lack of funds.

James Chapin, "Improptu String Quartet," Oil on Canvas

James Chapin, “Improptu String Quartet,” Oil on Canvas

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