Quartets for various instruments

Lawrence Axelrod composer

Clocks In Motion
Lakeshore Rush
The Pyrenean Quartet
The Growlers
Black Oak Ensemble | with Mary Stolper flute

Release Date: April 28, 2023
Catalog #: RR8087
Format: Digital
21st Century

At times meditative, at times sparklingly abstract, 5X4 is an album of contrasts. Composer Lawrence Axelrod offers a multi-faceted selection of original compositions which push the limits of musical craft – all contained within the quartet setup, but in varying instrumentations.

The range begins with the eternal classic, the string quartet, progresses to a less-orthodox quartet of flute, clarinet, violoncello, and piano, escalates to an otherworldly ensemble of percussion, and finally culminates with a hypnotic double bass quartet. Axelrod’s 5X4 is carefully conceptualized and altogether well-wrought; often contemplative, and always original.


Hear the full album on YouTube

"A thoroughly engaging essay in sonority."


Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 An Opening, A Waltz, A Song, An Ending (2013) Lawrence Axelrod Black Oak Ensemble | Mary Stolper, flute; Desiree Ruhstrat, violin; Aurelien Pederzoli, viola; David Cunliffe, cello 11:07
02 Emeq (2015) Lawrence Axelrod Clocks in Motion | Sean Kleve, Megan Arms, Chris Jones, John Corkill - percussion 12:23
03 Chants and Antiphons (2020) Lawrence Axelrod The Pyrenean Quartet | Rika Seko, Kate Carter - violins; Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff, viola; Paula Kosower, cello 11:19
04 Punctuated! (2010): I. Asterisk Lawrence Axelrod Lakeshore Rush | Erin Murphy, flute; Laura McLaughlin, clarinet; Elena Doubovitskaya, piano; Christopher Ferrer, cello 2:14
05 Punctuated! (2010): II. Ellipsis Lawrence Axelrod Lakeshore Rush | Erin Murphy, flute; Laura McLaughlin, clarinet; Elena Doubovitskaya, piano; Christopher Ferrer, cello 2:11
06 Punctuated! (2010): III. Period Lawrence Axelrod Lakeshore Rush | Erin Murphy, flute; Laura McLaughlin, clarinet; Elena Doubovitskaya, piano; Christopher Ferrer, cello 1:17
07 Punctuated! (2010): IV. Question Mark Lawrence Axelrod Lakeshore Rush | Erin Murphy, flute; Laura McLaughlin, clarinet; Elena Doubovitskaya, piano; Christopher Ferrer, cello 2:39
08 Four Large Objects (2020) Lawrence Axelrod The Growlers | Douglas Johnson, Michael Hovnanian, Jonathan Cegys, Jeremy Attanasio - double basses 10:02

Track 1 Recorded at Area44 Recordings in Northfield IL
Session Engineer Mat Prock

Track 2 Recorded at the University of Missouri/Columbia in Columbia MO
Session Engineer David Meyers

Track 3 Recorded at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago IL
Session Engineer Ralph Loza

Track 4-7 Recorded at Pianoforte Studio in Chicago IL
Session Engineer Jeremy Whetstone

Track 8 Recorded at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago IL
Session Engineer Ralph Loza

Mastering Melanie Montgomery

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Ivana Hauser

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Aidan Curran

Artist Information

Lawrence Axelrod


A recent review in Opera News states that Lawrence Axelrod is “a … composer whose fresh and distinctive music deserves to be more widely known.” At once composer, pianist, and conductor, Axelrod’s musical activities have taken him around the United States, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. As a composer, Axelrod has had works performed by ~Nois Saxophone Quartet, the London Sylvan Ensemble, Quintet Attacca, The Chicago Composers Orchestra, Palomar, Ensemble Dal Niente, Pinotage, The Lincoln Trio, The Duo Ahlert/Schwab, and The Verdi String Quartet in recent seasons. Frissons was premiered by ~Nois on a concert devoted to new music for saxophone quartet in June 2019.


The concept of title is one that we composers work and struggle with. I don’t think that every abstract piece of music needs a highly descriptive title. If there is no big story or underlying concept, I feel that simpler is better.

In this work, the music comes from a single source and then gets used in four distinctly different ways. Thinking there might be a scientific parallel, I asked a biologist friend if there was a word for this—where different looking species or organisms all came very directly from one source. He suggested “symmorphosis” or “convergent evolution.” Nice words, but I found them too weighty-sounding for what, I believe, comes across as a fairly straight-forward piece. I wanted something a bit more descriptive than “flute quartet” so I opted for a title which tells you something about what you will hear, but does not impose an unnecessary burden on the music.

The flutist who originally suggested this piece said he wanted to pair it with Mozart and Haydn pieces with the same instrumentation. So, as a sort of homage, I went to the Mozart A major flute quartet, which, for some odd reason, I have a score of. In the last movement, the Rondo, I took the 12 notes of the scale in the order in which they appear in the flute part. This sequence of pitches became the foundation of the piece. So, although the musical language has nothing to do with Mozart, he provides the “deep structure,” if you will, of the piece.

– Lawrence Axelrod

Emeq is the word for water in Yup’ik, the language of one of the coastal peoples of Alaska. On a recent trip to Alaska, I was aware of the many forms and power of water in the landscape. The work is divided into three contrasting sections that follow one another without pause.

Estuaries are areas of meandering coastal streams where fresh water meets salt water. Soft sighing sounds are the distant ocean waves; consonances and dissonances mingle and wander through like the fresh and saltwater. Glaciers are large frozen pieces of history, moving slowly but inexorably. They are sometimes startlingly white or dirty or blue, depending on the composition of the ice. When a glacier calves—drops large pieces of ice into the water—it produces what locals call “white thunder.”

Tides in Alaska can shift water levels by more than 20 feet in places. Where a shallow and narrowing inlet comes from a broad bay, a bore tide can occur at certain new or full moons—a rush of seawater that can produce a 6 to 10 foot wave at a speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour. This phenomenon is represented by a steady crescendo from ppp to fff, with running 16th notes throughout. This work was written for the fine players of Clocks in Motion.

– Lawrence Axelrod

This generally subdued work for string quartet follows a call-and-response format. A short unison melody for all four players reminiscent of Gregorian chant is followed by a more rhythmically and harmonically involved passage. As this pattern repeats during the course of the piece, both sections get longer: the unison becomes more rhythmically diverse and ornamented with various extended techniques, and the response becomes more complex, each instrument gaining more and more independence.

– Lawrence Axelrod

Punctuated! was written for a competition where the instrumentation was specified and the piece had to be written in two weeks. Though a subject for these miniatures was suggested, it seemed too big in scope. So I chose the smallest, most varied and interesting thing I could think of: punctuation. I tried to evoke each punctuation mark in a different way—rhythm for “Ellipsis” (a triplet representing the dot-dot-dot), emphasis for “Period” (single sharp dyads that are prolonged with an echo in the piano), shape for “Asterisk” (gestures that suggest its small star shape) and concept for “Question Mark” (very varied musical ideas that share a tempo and represent different kinds of questions).

– Lawrence Axelrod

Writing a work for multiples of a single instrument is always an interesting and difficult challenge. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about balance, as all the players have the same capabilities. On the other hand, the sameness of sound among all the players has the potential of ending up bland and uninteresting. In this work, I tried to treat all four players as equals, while exploiting and exploring some of the unique sonic possibilities of the double bass.

The work is in three movements, which follow one another without pause.

The first movement is marked by energetic unison passages with shifting strong rhythms. These moments alternate quieter, more regular passages with short melodic elements and also pizzicato sections.

The second movement begins with an expressive cadenza for the fourth double bass, leading into explorations of different effects for all four players. The final unsynchronized flourish ends on a low C-sharp, ushering in the third movement.

The final movement presents a calm chant-like theme divided among the four players, followed by five variations which increase in speed and intensity.

– Lawrence Axelrod