Reposted from Third Angle New MusicCatch their performance of In the Dark at TBA:13, September 17, 18, and 19. Tickets online.

We’re in the final preparation stage for String Quartet no. 3, by Georg Friedrich Haas….what a great journey it’s been! It’s always fascinating how the venerable string quartet form can be made fresh by visionary writing. Haas’s quartet not only pushes envelopes in terms of tunings systems and sound colors, he also allows for the players to determine the order of the 18 episodes that take place, based on the will of the group at any given moment.

Haas gives his work the title “, loosely translated as “The Third Night”, which refers to the final night of the Tenebrae services leading up to Easter. At the last night, the candles in the church are each extinguished until the room is completely dark, the moment of complete dislocation from grace. In Haas’s quartet, this total darkness is more than a theatrical device, it transforms our minds into the performance venue, a direct connection between sound and hearing that is unadulterated by sight.

The variety of sound colors in this piece is incredible! One minute we’re thumping and plucking like insane foley artists on a movie set, the next we’re stacking diminished seventh chords in just intonation and quoting 16th century composers. Put it all together, and you get a sound world of spectres sneaking around in the dark, and of the promise of the sunrise during moments of striking harmonic consonance.

Listen to this episode, one that we call “Satan’s Tea Kettle”…very spooky, intense, as though a steam pipe has ruptured and things are about to get really hot:


Haas’s love of diminished seventh chords gets a contemporary treatment, with glissandi and shimmering vibrato:

Near the end of the piece, order is restored, however briefly, by the solemn music of Gesualdo:

It’s also a great pleasure to introduce Charles Noble (violist) and Marilyn DeOliveira (cellist) to the quartet, joining Greg Ewer and myself in this great journey of mysterious and evocative music. Big thanks to PICA for presenting this performance as part of TBA, and of course to the Third Angle board of directors and my friend and lifesaver, Executive Director Lisa Volle.

“Turn out the liiiiights, the party’s starting…..”