Brooklyn Rider's Nicholas Cords describes the ensemble's new piece Seven Steps, which premieres during the quartet's Zankel Hall concert on October 31.
We have always been heavily invested in the music of our time as we constantly work with composers, arrangers, and guest collaborators. All of this is done with an eye toward making the string quartet relevant to the present generation of listeners. Engaging in this process while grappling with the great canonic works in the string quartet repertoire (such as Beethoven’s Op. 131) makes this investment in the present especially exciting to us.
For us, playing Beethoven is an inspiring journey into a supremely creative mind. What’s more is that his music speaks as currently as just about anything being written today. It is truly mind- and world-expanding to experience his music as a performer or an audience member. Beethoven’s late period in particular suggests so many different worlds that can serve as fodder for a composer in the present. Not that Beethoven is the only source of inspiration! We often refer to the string quartet as the band of the 18th century—portable, playing the music of its day, popular. We like to think that the string quartet is also a viable band in the 21st century. What is happening today in the realm of bands (alternative, rock, experimental, folk, and so on) is truly exciting to us. Some incredible music is being created collaboratively across a wide variety of genres. Why shouldn’t a quartet also endeavor to create music together rather than always relying on the singular voice of the composer?
Seven Steps plays with the number seven—not just because it suggests the spiritual world that Beethoven explores in his late works (in addition to all of the Biblical references to seven, the Buddha was said to have taken seven steps at birth), but because our piece is also divided into seven very short fragments, just as Beethoven’s Op. 131 is written in seven movements. More important than the link to Beethoven, we think about this piece as seven steps forward for us as a string quartet. The process of creating music together requires a great deal of trust, and we see this as opening another chapter in our evolution. We certainly don’t intend for our piece to rise to the same transcendent heights as Beethoven, but what is extremely important to us is to constantly push our boundaries outwards. Being closer to the creative process ourselves not only results in the creation of new music, but also helps us to achieve more empathetic interpretations of other people’s music.
Related: October 31 Brooklyn Rider