for guitar quartet
The title of this piece comes from the first line of Noël, a Christmas carol by Richard Watson Gilder, set to a tune from the Scottish Psalter of 1615. The text is actually rather somber, and the music reflects only my impression of the lovely opening imagery, not the mood of the poem per se.
The first movement is mostly light and airy, with scurrying figures alternating and intermingling with a slightly more sustained idea. The second movement is slower and expressive. This movement requires each performer to use a non-standard tuning: two of the instruments are tuned in hollow-sounding perfect intervals, while the other two are tuned to a major chord and a minor chord, respectively. Much of the movement exploits these chords as open strings, barred chords and in harmonics. In both movements I have attempted to write very “guitar-y” music, exploiting the idiosyncrasies and the wonderful sounds specific to the instrument.
This is the third piece I have written for my colleague and friend, guitarist Stephen Mattingly. Previously I have composed a piece for flute and guitar, and one for solo guitar, with him in mind. The guitar is notoriously difficult for non-guitarists like me to write for, and Stephen provided me with many resources, including a great deal of his time, as well as a loaner instrument, without which these pieces would be very different, if they existed at all.
Stardust and Vaporous Light was specifically written for the Tantalus Guitar Quartet, of which he is a founding member.