Two Transcendental Odes
for string quartet
Two Transcendental Odes for string quartet by Dan Locklair are two separate movements, yet share two elements common to each: An extra-musical impetus from two different poems by the American transcendental poet, Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) and two different pre-existing melodies. Two Transcendental Odes is a 2012 revision of a 1978 composition entitled, Three Transcendental Odes, which was created while I was living in Binghamton, New York. The original 1978 work was premiered in Binghamton that same year by the Chester String Quartet. In the revised Two Transcendental Odes the first movement of the original work has been eliminated. The revision of the composition was done in November 2012 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was due to the encouragement of Peter Dutilly on behalf of the members of Florida State University’s graduate string quartet, the Eppes String Quartet (Vilma Lloja, Alexandra Matloff, Peter Dutilly, and Austin Bennett). I extend my gratitude to them for their encouragement that has led to the creation of Two Transcendental Odes.
I. Love Equals Swift and Slow
A ca. 1849 poem of the same name by Thoreau is the extra-musical poetic stimulus for this movement. Beginning and ending energetically, the middle section of the movement is reflective. The basis for its melodic material comes from a well-known German chorale tune by Martin Luther, Ein feste Burg (ca. 1527). This tune is freely altered throughout and is never quoted in full.
Love equals swift and slow,
And high and low,
Racer and lame,
The hunter and his game.
II. Low-Anchored Cloud
A ca.1840 poem of the same name by Thoreau is the extra-musical poetic inspiration for this movement. Its melodic material is derived from a ninth-century Latin plainsong melody, Veni Creator Spiritus. This serene movement presents the plainsong melody in long note values throughout as it slowly unfolds among the four instruments. The alteration of the use of non-vibrato and vibrato, as well a host of expressive hairpin dynamic markings, help give shape and definition to the movement. Only in the final section, which was created for the 2012 revision, is the plainsong melody harmonized and stated in a fully recognizable fashion.
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men’s fields!