on 22 February 2011
The prolific composer Gloria Coates' 9th quartet is haunting and brilliant. So rich and vivid texturally, it cannot merely be characterised by a repertoire of techniques or influences, and analysed accordingly; crucially, her style is deeply individual and intuitive as well. This composition seems to flow analogously to a densely absorbing painting, and flood the psyche in a rich palette of colours and tones: gliassandos and micro-tonalities are introduced via a mirror canon and the powerful glissando canon in the middle of the piece is deeply evocative and powerful.
As a small child, she was constantly singing and experimenting with sound, and was fascinated by strings, perceiving them as an extension of the human voice.
'Music on Open Strings' (1973) was premiered at the Warsaw Autumn Festival to international acclaim, and served as an inspirational template for many later compositions.
Her music, its spellbinding tone clusters and glissandos, are a true revelation to be experienced and felt, rather like the poem of Emily Dickinson's that inspired the Lyric Suite for Piano Trio, of the same album. I was totally immersed by the music, and the impulse to analytically dissect and characterise its brilliance was merely secondary to its searing sensitivity and overall impact.
'Split the Lark-and you'll find the Music-
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled-
Scantilly dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear when Lutes be old.
Loose the Flood-you shall find it patent-
Gush after gush, reserved for you-
Scarlet Experiment! Sceptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?'