Celestial Sketchbook
for string quartet
I. Swirling Galaxies   II. Constellations   III. Space   IV. Time   V. The Astral Expanse
Year: 1998, rev. 2004
Duration: 11'
First Performance: 17 September 1998 Mellon Institute Auditorium; Pittsburgh, PA
Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Instrumentation: 2Vn, Vla, Vc

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Program Notes

Celestial Sketchbook, five short movements for string quartet, was composed in the winter of 1998. I was deeply inspired at that time by the idea of outer space, and began reading relatively simple books (Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time and The Birth of the Universe by Trinh Xuan Thuan) on astrophysics, trying to find some clue as to why there are billions of galaxies whirling around the infinite void of space like grit in some colossal, cosmic sand storm.

I named the five movements Swirling Galaxies, Constellations, Space, Time, and The Astral Expanse, respectively. The first, third, and fifth movements are slow, and while they are different from each other, they also share a common thread of sound through the use of artificial harmonics. The inner movements are faster and more rhythmically driven.

I do not have much faith in music’s ability to concretely communicate pictures, images of objects, places, or circumstance, and these pieces are not intended to “illustrate” the phenomena for which they are named. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that they are an attempt to capture the feelings of awe, wonder, and profound exasperation that accompanied my all too brief wanderings through books on cosmology.




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