Recording by Adamas Quartet at Midwest Composers' Symposium, University of Iowa.


"Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new..."

John Dunne (1572-1631)

breathe...blow...break explores the dialectic between organicitiy and newness, and the limits of organic development as a strategy for transformation. Along this dialectic exists procedure (with the least capacity for newness), lyricism (an expression of desire to be made new, yet within the container of organicity) and as last resort, rupture. The opening places the audience immediately in an airy and dreamy world, and at the same time introduces the economized set of materials that are the basis of the entire piece. Out of harmonic ambiguity emerge lines of poignant yet restrained lyricism shared between all members of the quartet. Gradually, the textures and harmonies develop increasing tension as the germinal materials are sequenced repeatedly in a non-tonal and original procedure. Gentle breath sounds become harsh and noisy as the motivic material is energized in a fast and agitated middle section. After reaching a dramatic climax, the slow opening texture returns, but transformed in harmony and affect. Throughout the piece, musical ideas react to each other and develop organically, yet ultimately yearn to be made new.