String Trio

String Trio
Violin, Viola, Cello

Approx. 14 minutes


A challenging, virtuosic work for string trio, which plays with ideas of disparate personalities learning to communicate and work together. The second movement can be performed as a stand-alone piece called "Obstinate Spaces."

When I wrote String Trio, many of my recent pieces had centered on ideas of diverse personalities in conflict. I enjoy the challenge of getting these diverse elements to work together. This was certainly true of my String Trio.

Congruity Theory is a psychological term that deals with how one individual’s attitude can be affected by interaction with the attitude of other individuals, how being exposed to a different perspective can cause you to reevaluate your own. In the first movement, the viola introduces disruptive ideas that have to be examined and eventually absorbed by the violin and cello. The movement begins with the violin and cello sharing the same hexachord (set of six notes). When the viola enters, it utilizes the hexachord made up of the note values not in use by the violin and cello. The viola is not only using different notes, but their rhythmic and melodic figures intentionally antagonize the others. By the end of the movement all three come together with something that is influenced by their earlier musical material but is completely new.

Obstinate Spaces takes its title from the ostinati that form the backbone of the movement. The word “ostinato” traces back to the Latin for “stubborn” or “obstinate.” In this movement the violin takes the lead, but is certainly willing to share the spotlight with the others, as long as it gets the last word.

Anamnesis is a recalling to memory, in which material from the first movement is reviewed from a new, more harmonious perspective.

Lost in Soquel is somewhat different. Instead of the six-note chords of the opening, the scale is divided into four-note sets that shift among the individual instruments fluidly throughout the movement. The movement is the most rhythmically complex and energetic, taking advantage of the specific talents of the trio for whom I was writing. Soquel is a small town near Monterey Bay where I wrote this movement, surrounded by friends, family and redwoods.

String Trio was commissioned by the Janaki String Trio in 2006, and is dedicated to them (Serena, Katie and Arnold). They were prominent in my thoughts during the entire compositional process. It was a thrill to work with them.