From Michael Ellison’s web site: “The music of Michael Ellison defies categorization, seemingly integrating contemporary and classical sensibilities with traditional influences into a unique and personal idiom. Described as ‘beautifully crafted, robust and absorbing’ by American Record Guide, Ellison’s is a music of color and contrast, evocative atmosphere and emotional breadth. Having worked out the collision of cultures that is Istanbul for over ten years, Ellison’s recent work explores the integration of disparate traditions and sonic experimentations into meaningful new forms.
“Notable commissions and awards have included the opera ‘Say I Am You-Mevlana’ (2012), co-produced by Rotterdam Operadagen and IKSV and the Istanbul Music Festival; the ‘Turkish’ Concerto, K. 219 for Turkish instruments, cello, and orchestra (2008), commissioned and premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Kubla Khan (2011) for the Istanbul Music Festival; String Quartet No. 2 (2006) for the Borromeo Quartet, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Copland House, Fulbright Foundation, Beebe Foundation, Ojai Festival, Barlow Endowment, and ASCAP. Co-director of Istanbul’s groundbreaking Hezarfen Ensemble, Ellison teaches composition at the University of Bristol.”
Michael Ellison writes: “String Quartet No. 3 is based on the idea of ‘fiddling’ and ‘riffs’ across traditions, primarily using North American bluegrass fiddle and Turkish/Balkan kemençe styles as starting points for a work that deals with tradition, its endlessly revitalizing energy, and its integration into a contemporary, highly ‘rhythmicized’ compositional language. With its stream-of-consciousness, multi-movement structure (even more movements than in my seven-movement String Quartet No. 2, but just as continuous), this work contextualizes ‘vernacular,’ traditional fiddle figures and ‘riffs’ within a more abstract sound world, presenting fiddling elements in some moments as a total, immediate physical presence occupying the entire quartet sound space, while at other times juxtaposing them as fragments of pastoral innocence set within a web of post-modern abstraction and illusion or memory; that is to say, at one of several steps removed from tradition. For me, this is something that perhaps roughly corresponds to situations we all face today and difficulties of integration within our own consciousnesses, seeking meaning from tradition in a post-tradition, post-classical music, multi-cultural milieu — an urgent reason for creating new works that can address such paradoxes in a musical realm. For me, this also means a give and take, and a creative tension between perceived vernacular elements and my own compositional language, for which the quartet medium provides a particular discipline while offering nearly limitless intimate and expressive freedom.
“While based on fiddling elements, the work is meant to be chamber music in the deepest sense, creating what Hans Keller called the peculiar ‘harmonic counterpoint’ that only the string quartet can create, at times within dense or widely spread contemporary cultures, while maintaining a high level of individuality between the players and navigating its cultural and technical overlays with wit, energy of the ‘folk,’ and a dose of formal, mercurial audacity.”
Sponsored by: Hal Myers and the NOVA Chamber Music Series