Myth, Art, Play, Culture, Spirit, And Energy: A Cycle of String Quartets
Robert J. Martin composer
Enkidu String Quartet
With his Ravello release EMBRACE THE WIND: A CELEBRATION OF WIND AND WIND MACHINES, composer Robert J. Martin communicates the wonder that humanity has for wind through a cycle of string quartets rooted in images and emotions played out across histories as diverse as ancient Phoenicia and modern wind farms. The cycle uses contrasting sonorities and melodic material that range from thorny to lush to portray the influence of wind on culture and civilization, from the joy of a child's pinwheel to the power of giant wind turbines.
Martin uses strings to portray wind in unique ways. The strings moan like wind, imitate mechanical toys, howl, bite, lull us with gentleness, and show us the sweetness of our world. This is a cycle of contrasts where the grinding of sliding gears in one quartet makes the quiet back and forth movement of a weathervane in another all the sweeter. The use of slides and portamentos gives these quartets a unique energy, while the use of frequent tone painting and image-based passages makes these pieces accessible to everyone. Every player is a soloist in these virtuosic quartets, and nowhere does this emerge more than in the solo and duet interludes between quartets.
The cycle begins with a brief evocation of four snake winds, primal forces in the Navajo creation story, winding their way to sky and then returning. Pinwheels, Gusts in a Field of Windmills, Wind Turbines, and Sliding Gears evoke the organic spontaneity of wind as it drives the hypnotic motion of wind machines. Weathervane Nocturne and Christina’s World explore images of night, isolation, and peace. Whirligig of the Dancing Bears captures the magic of mechanical bears dancing faster and faster as the wind increases. The final movement, Mobile Turning in the Wind, brings the cycle to a close with energetic cadences that portray a giant mobile turning in the wind, bringing us to a sense of dramatic finality. The nine quartets and seven solo and duet interludes that fill this seventy-five minute album provide the listener with many different listening experiences linked by a focus on emotion and imagery.