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Alvin Singleton: Four String Quartets

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Alvin Singleton: Four String Quartets
Alvin Singleton: Four String Quartets


Alvin Singletons (born 1940) approach to music-making has all along been involved in an interplay with listeners and their psychology. While this does not mean he has been centred on simply pleasing his audiences, his work seems to constantly draw his audience into confronting challenges of listening, and they tend to end up pleased.

When asked recently about why ordinary listeners seem to get his music, he answered:

Perhaps because its structurally filled with surprises, a lot of silences, and spaces in my compositions.

Contrasts both big and small, long and short, vigorous and subdued, loud and quiet, are important to his music. Maybe a passage is presented that happens loudly over and over again followed by sudden silence. Suddenly the listener notices how loud that silence seems. In a way, it is the relationship with the listener that he regards as making serious music a serious matter.

Singletons string quartets span the arc of his careerthe first (untitled) written in 1967, the fourth in 2019and trace his stylistic evolution as a composer. Suggestively and somewhat enigmatically titledNo. 2 (1988) is Secret Desire to Be Black; No. 3 (1994) is Somehow We Can; No. 4 is Hallelujah Anyhowthey serve as an excellent introduction to his work and constitute a substantial contribution to the string quartet repertoire by one of this countrys most distinguished African-American composers.

Three of the four quartets are world-premiere recordings.

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