Electric Pastoral (2008)
for string quartet and electronics
premiered by the Pacifica Quartet
I. Daybreak. Dirt road through the cornfield by the power plant. II. Thunderstorm over I-80 in the plains. III. The old barn and the new drive-through. IV. Twilight. All Saints Cemetery near the Carolina coast.
During the summer when I began conceptualizing Electric Pastoral, I took a couple of extended road trips through the rural American South and Midwest. Around this time I was particularly attracted to depictions of the pastoral in the works of artists and composers of previous generations. I could identify with the exuberant bloom of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, the hazy creak of Ives’s Three Places in New England, and the mix of the earthy and ethereal in Bartók’s Out of Doors Suite. I became interested in composing a piece that would update and expand on the idea of the musically pastoral. I wanted to react to the sometimes bizarre and occasionally sublime combinations of the old and new in the contemporary American countryside. Electric Pastorals depicts, in a very loose sense, four rural scenes in one continuous course, hopefully capturing some of the weird beauty of modern rural America. The electronics were created in the University of Chicago’s Computer Music Studio with the generous help of the Pacifica Quartet.