for string quartet and computer
Composer: Robert McClure
The Gate was conceived in conceptual collaboration with dancer and choreographer Ashley Bowman. Ashley and I had been speaking for a few years about writing a piece for string quartet and electronics for the specific purpose of being choreographed. Since the first piece we had ever worked together on was In My Mother’s Garden, we decided to revive the garden theme for this piece as well. As such, The Gate is a programmatic journey through gardens. However, these gardens do not merely consist of flowers and plants. The journey takes place as if in a dream where the rules of reality, while present, can be bent, broken, and completely disregarded. The settings and situations are based on my own reoccurring dreams.
The journey begins with the character in a “labyrinth” or maze garden. Tall hedges prevent any sense of bearings. The journey consists of decisions en route to the middle of the labyrinth. Once the character has reached the middle, they find “the gate.” A decision of whether or not to pass through it looms and is musically represented by a chord which will return in fixed pitch and register assertion; a chord that presents a question. The character passes through the gate which leads downward; underground.
The character is immediately ensnared by many vines, aggressively pulling the character downwards. At first, out of shock, the character does not struggle. Then, when their fate is realized, the character begins their attempts to escape. The vines will not release. The clash becomes more violent. Fear pervades the character. Not only do they see their doomed fate before them but, they are battling an opponent completely foreign; an opponent without logic or reason. After many escape attempts (represented musically by the first violin), the character, exhausted and ready to submit to the end, makes one final attempt to break free and does so. Now, a chase in dark tunnels ensues. Just as the vines are about to assail the character, the character leaps out of reach and into space, suspended, without knowing what lays before them.
The character wakes in a room, the first garden, empty except for objects hanging from the ceiling. No section of ceiling is exposed as pieces of wood, metal, and glass are suspended in a close grid resembling wind chimes. The character begins to explore the space, apprehensive at first and then more playfully. They touch some objects at one end of the room which creates a wave effect throughout the space. A hole in the floor opens revealing clear, blue water. The character jumps in.
The second garden, an underwater garden, is cultivated by its inhabitants; fish, crustaceans, rays, etc. Though the character is human, they possess the ability to breathe underwater and swim effortlessly. The character dances among the surroundings while sunlight streams down from the surface.
Just as in the dreams, the surroundings immediately change. The final garden is that of memories. The character finds themselves in a dark empty room with many flickering projections of memories. Home sick and alone, in a unfamiliar place, the character yearns for the security of home. Musically, the movement is almost completely made up of a single sonority.
The character sees emotional memories and starts looking for a way out of this garden. In this search, hints of the vines return. Suddenly, the room lights up and the character is surrounded by the vines. The chase begins.
The final iteration of the question chord appears and unlike the previous occurrences, it is now resolved. The resolution is built from the same sonority of the third garden. The sonority of memories of home become the sonority of home as the character escapes and returns back to reality; waking from a dream.
II. down the rabbit hole
III. Garden I: suspended from the ceiling
IV. Garden II: light below the surface
V. Garden III: memories on the walls and on the floor
VI. in pursuit