Elegies for the Afterland was commissioned by the Flux Quartet though a grant from New Music USA. It is comprised of a a set of 15 contiguous songs for string quartet and a 7-tone electronic drone field in just-intonation. Players execute melodic, harmonic & rhythmic material that relates in a variety of ways to this field, which alternates throughout the course of the piece between lydian and dorian modalities as it modulates in a continuing upward arc.
In the just-intonation scheme employed here, the modulation from E to F, for example, less than a half step by almost a 3rd of a semi-tone – a 25/24 ratio in just-intonation tuning. The cumulative effect is that every three “half-step” modulations is, in reality, only the slightest bit more than an equal-temperament whole tone and players must re-calibrate their instruments for each modulation in order to stay in proper relationship with their surroundings. As a sort of wild card in all of this, there is a sine tone layer throwing a variety of tension/release curves into the drone’s structural orthodoxy.
All in all, EftA an extremely difficult piece. What makes it especially diabolical is that it may not always seem that difficult to the listener. In reality, though, these guys are asked to reinvent everything they know about their instrument sixteen times—once every three minutes.
Tom Chiu - violin
Conrad Harris - violin
Max Mandel - viola
Alex Greenbaum - cello
w/David First - laptop