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Ordinary Time

This phrase from the church calendar has always struck me as ironic in its understatement, and appropriate for a piece that plays with time’s “ordinary” contradictions.

ABAOA Quartet: David Danel & Midon Hayashi, violins; Julian Veverica, viola; Balász Adorjan, cello. December 3, 2004, Martinů Hall of Lichtenstein Palace, Prague

Ordinary Time, for string quartet, was written without any specific image or non-musical association in mind. In retrospect, it seemed to me that the piece wrestles with some of the paradoxical aspects of our experience of time, such as the way time can at once seem to pass quickly and slowly, to press forward and to stand still. I therefore chose the title “Ordinary Time,” borrowing from the church calendar a phrase that has always struck me as ironic in its understatement. The piece is in two movements; the first is in a clearly defined fast-slow-fast form, but the second movement is unstable, constantly digressing, changing moods, and generally resisting formal control. By chance, most of the time I spent working on this piece was during the Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas seasons, and hardly any of it in “Ordinary Time.” This composition was premiered April 19, 2002, by the Harmonies of the World at the festival Two Days and Two Nights of New Music in Odesa, Ukraine; and at the 2002 Kazan Festival of New Music in Kazan, Tatarstan.