Canyon Anthology is described by its composer as “somewhat programmatic,” a set of impressions in music inspired by several white water raft trips through the Grand Canyon. The opening movement, Particles, is Andrix’ impression of “the random milling about of whatever was here before the universe, as we know it, was formed.” A brief, programmatic summing up of the entire history of the planet forms the basis of the next movement, A Brief History of Time.
A scherzo and trio, called Lizards and Snakes, makes up the next movement, picturesque descriptions in music of indigenous denizens of the Grand Canyon. Spirits pays homage to the civilizations that have inhabited the Grand Canyon, while the final movement, Choral, attempts, “impossible though it may be,” Andrix says, to depict the true grandeur of the Canyon.
The theme used as the basis for a set of variations from Bartók (Variations on a Theme of Bartók) is taken from the Hungarian composer’s String Quartet No. 6. As in the original Bartók work, viola alone begins Andrix’ piece, intoning the Mesto opening (“mesto,” meaning sad or mournful). Following the presentation of the theme, the Ostinato extracts six notes from the theme, and has the two violins play florid variations of it. The next movement, Inversion, “is simply the theme played upside down by the cello,” the composer writes, while the viola accompanies.
In the Bagatelle movement, each note of the theme is played (and sustained) by a different instrument, resulting in what Andrix feels are “some rather savoury tone clusters.” Each of the four instruments also interject some playful ideas separate from the original music. Aria has the second violin restate most of the them, accompanied by simple harmonies. A triplet figure made up of the original theme’s first five notes forms the basis of the Scherzando, as this motif is tossed about by the two violins and the viola.
Bartók’s melody is given a new harmony by Andrix in Theme. These harmonies form the basis of the Finale, in which an idea grown from the harmonies creates a new theme, which is given its own set of variations in a jazz style.
The good-natured Plumber’s Lite has only recently surfaced as a work for string quartet. Andrix wrote the three-movement piece for a recorder quintet known as The Plumber’s Union.
George Andrix’ love of the blues – a highly influential musical form which gave birth to rock music, among other genres – is given manifold expression in Shades of Blue. Each of the five movements is based either on a blues form, or a form which stems from the blues.
Reconstruction takes a straightforward five-note blues “lick,” takes it apart into two and three-note segments, which are put back together as the movement progresses.
Vary Blue is an instantly recognizable twelve-bar blues progression, with each instrument inthe quartet given a variation to play over top of the blues line.
The Wandering Boogie features a simple, “some would say mundane,” Andrix notes wryly, boogie bass line. “A melody, as such, never happens,” the composer adds. Instead, the musicians seem to wander off from each other into different keys, becoming more disjointed to the point, it would seem, of no return. They manage to “find” each other to bring the movement to a close.
Another blues theme is given four-part harmony in the next movement, Choral.
The finale takes its name from the hard blue gem, Sapphire. As with the stone, this movement is hard driving rock music, “leaning toward heavy metal,” in Andrix’ words.