Book of Prayers for String Quartet (2011)

Premiered March 24, 2012 by Che Ho Lam and Aimee Lillienstein (violins), Alex Pena (viola), and Alejandro Acosta (cello).

Selected as a winner of the New England Conservatory Honor Ensemble Composition Competition (2013).


Program Note:

Book of Prayers is my first foray into the string quartet genre, so I decided to write for what I consider the ensemble's greatest strength: it's expressive powers. The work is highly emotive, and turned out to be one of my most personal pieces.

Book of Prayers is a theme and variations in which each variation is filtered through a specific emotion. The theme is stated by cello alone in its extreme high register, which some, myself included, consider to be evocative of the human voice. As the piece progresses, the cello maintains this role as the voice of humanity and is usually the instigator of motivic development. In the moments when the cello does not drive the piece developmentally forward, it responds most dramatically to changes in mood and character caused by the other members of the ensemble.

The most important aspect of the opening theme is the first four note cell, introduced and developed by the cello in its opening monologue. These four notes are the most manipulated aspect of the theme within the variations. I intend this opening solo to be heard as a bedtime prayer, and a story develops through the emotions of each variation that commonly define our own prayers. I have purposefully kept myself from labeling these variations, because I feel that it is more rewarding for performers and listeners to decide for themselves the emotional intention of each variation.

I dedicate this piece to my composition teacher, Cindy McTee. I was moved to hear of her battle with breast cancer, and it is my hope that she can identify her own story with the emotional journey of this piece.