String Quartet

The Futureman Virtual Orchestra

First Movement - Live in Nashville

The "Southern Wind"
String Quartet

Composed by
Don Robertson

1. First Mov. (11:00)
2. Second Mov. (8:10)
3. Third Mov. (8:20)
4. Fourth Mov. (9:00)

Total Time: 36:30 minutes


"If Schubert had grown up in Tennessee, he might have written Don Robertsonís 'Southern Wind' string quartet. Lovely."

                                                                                                                                - Tracy Silverman

The "Southern Wind" String Quartet

In 1989, I decided to return to writing acoustic music. My plan would be to write an orchestral work, a string quartet, and a large-scale choral work. I tackled the orchestral work first, and in 1993 I finished Kopavi. Next would be the string quartet. To prepare for it, I began a study of the great quartets of Haydn, Beethoven and Debussy. In January of 1996, I was living in Richmond, Virginia where I had a contract to write software for the Department of Motor Vehicles. On the Morning of January 6th, the North American Blizzard of 1996 struck the East Coast. I awoke that morning realizing that I had been dreaming the opening of my string quartet. I grabbed some paper and began writing down what I clearly heard in the dream: the first few pages of the first movement, then allowed the music to spontaneously flow for a few more pages. I managed to get to work that morning. Very few employees had shown up as most of the roads were not driveable and power was out all over the city. I was sitting at my computer terminal, writing some computer code when I felt a presence around me, and then I begin to hear the middle part of the first movement clearly. I grabbed some computer printouts on my desk, turned them over, and write out the entire middle section then and there. This is how this quartet unfolded.

I purchased an inexpensive Yamaha keyboard and a software program called "Digital Orchestrator" and used these to create a listenable version of my evolving string quartet. I wrote the second movement very spontaneously one morning, copying quickly what I heard in my mind. It was a slow movement. I decided that there would be one more movement, a fast one that would end the quartet. I did not want to write a "scherzo" or "minuette" movement as tradition dictated, as I really did not like many of these movements. The seemed too frivolous to me. However, it happened again. It was 1997. I awoke hearing very clearly the third movement - the scherzo. "Oh, No," I thought. How little control I myself had over this spontaneously appearing music. At any rate, I continued to hear and to write the third movement, and I liked what I was writing. It had humor, as a scherzo should (as "scherzo" means "joke").

The final, fourth, movement didn't come to me until 2001, and there is an interesting story about it also. Mary Ellen and I were living in Georgia. I was the CTO of Mind Share Systems, a computer company. I had taken a week's vacation to allow some time to write the fourth movement. I was anxious to see my work completed. The first few days of the vacation, I sat at the piano and tried to compose, toying with one motive, then another, then finally I gave up as nothing was coming to me. "Oh well," I thought, "I won't be using my vacation to finish my string quartet." I went about working on other projects until the last day of my vacation, when during the morning I felt a flash of inspiration! I went immediately to the piano, and as I began clearly hearing the new music of the fourth movement, I quickly wrote it down, and by the end of that day, the movement, as it stands today, had been completed.

Unashamedly tonal, melodic, consonant, joyful, I dedicate my string quartet to the 21st century!

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