|Sebastian Currier’s style of writing resists easy pigeonholes. Calling Currier’s oeuvre “eclectic, with a scalar, often tonal basis” tells the listener something, but ignores many crucial features of this music. Unlike other composers who cull from highly varied waters, for example, Currier goes to great lengths to carefully integrate his disparate tendrils of choice. He creates edifices that possess organic unity on various levels.
Quiet Time was written for the Cassatt Quartet expressly to accompany Quartetset on a recording and is deliberately connected to it. As Currier describes it, “The connection, call it commentary, reflection, revisitation, is not particularly dogmatic. Nonetheless, on as basic level they do share some details in common. Both have seven movements, and though the parallels are at times quite loose, the movements of the newer quartet reflect, albeit rather obliquely, those of the older ones. In Quartetset there is a basic division of material into two worlds—probably most obviously presented in the last movement, where the simple, diatonic material in the second violin is constantly juxtaposed with discordant material in the other instruments. Quiet Time explores this further, but in a distinctly different manner.
In this piece, the division is into source and processed material, a sort of purely instrumental fantasy on computer-based digital signal processing. We hear “primary” material undergo such processes as filtering, reverberation, ring modulation, delay, and time compression. Thus the basic dialectic in Quartetset—tonal reference versus non-tonal, dissonance versus consonance—here becomes natural versus artificial sound.
These two works are important additions to the string quartet literature—intelligent, sensitive, carefully considered listens that travel outside the usual well-worn ruts to offer music unlike that of anyone else. Combining an approachable manner of speech, impeccable workmanship, and a unique world view, they pay dividends from first hearing to last.