Etude IV from Symmetry Etudes
Composer, violinist, violist, and Baroque violinist Andrew McIntosh has a unique and diverse approach to music-making, prioritizing his work as a composer and focusing his performances primarily around the repertoire of compelling and experimental music from the last 100 years and from the 17th century. However, he enjoys music from throughout the last 800 years and can often be found playing works by a surprisingly varied palette of composers. McIntosh is a member of the Formalist Quartet, which is also dedicated to adventurous and relevant repertoire and regularly performs around the country. He holds degrees in violin, composition, and early music performance from the University of Nevada, Reno, the California Institute of the Arts, and the University of Southern California. A native of rural Northern Nevada, McIntosh is currently based in the Los Angeles area, where he enjoys a large and frequently unexpected variety of writing, performing, teaching, and recording activities.
As a composer, McIntosh strives to write vibrant and compelling pieces while bringing a spirit of experimentalism to the music, usually through working with just intonation and frequency ratios. His music is regularly performed around the U.S., and in 2011 he was awarded the First Honorable Mention (2nd Prize) in the Gaudeamus International Composers Competition.
Etude IV, from McIntosh’s eight Symmetry Etudes for two clarinets and violin, was composed in 2010. The composer has written the following note:
“Jim Sullivan and Brian Walsh are two very good friends of mine and we have been playing music together for five or six years in various contexts. They are both phenomenal musicians and are the reason that these crazy pieces (the Symmetry Etudes) exist. They often meet with each other once a week or so to practice tuning and other kinds of technical clarinet things, and about four years ago I had the good fortune to be invited to a number of these meetings, at which we started to explore microtonal tunings. They suggested I write some kind of study or technical exercise to help with understanding just intonation, which instead turned into a set of eight complete pieces of music that took me three years to write. It is not a single piece with movements, but rather a kind of book of self-contained individual pieces – although there is a definite development throughout the book.
“The microtonal sonorities start out fairly simple (unisons/octaves in the first one, Pythagorean tuning in the second, just thirds/sixths in the third, and so on) increasing in complexity and sometimes also creating situations in which the ‘just’ sounds become corrupted (such as in Etude I by the end). Also very present in the pieces is my fascination with some of the more orderly facets of the natural world, so the forms and harmonic constructs of the pieces are often very geometric or symmetrical in some way. …in Etude IV (my personal favorite) the symmetry is reflected in time as each phrase goes out of phase with itself….
“All of these forms and constructs, however, are merely a means to an end. Mostly I was inspired by how beautifully Jim and Brian play and I felt that my job as a composer was simply to create little sound-worlds that frame their wonderful playing in different ways. At the forefront of my imagination when writing the pieces was always the exquisite nuance and richness that both musicians bring to everything they play. I can’t thank them enough for their incredible patience, skill, and encouragement in both the creation and rehearsal of these very difficult pieces.”