Cross Quarter Days
Review by Marc Yeats:
"Alison Wrenn’s latest string quartet, ‘Cross Quarter Days’ is a delight!
The work brings together influences from the English Pastoral Tradition, elements of popular music and media music as well as strains of Celtic and some aspects of American minimalist music, all fused into an unselfconscious and communicative whole. The form of the work feels natural and unfettered, flowing as it does from section to section.
This is honest music; it wears its heart on its sleeve and is none the weaker for it. Wrenn’s music is clearly focused both harmonically and in the use of her material. Overwhelmingly life affirming, the music has hints of a darker, melancholic; nostalgic even, underbelly which rises more to the surface as the work progresses. It is notable in the slower section of the work and carries through into the tantalisingly short and almost ecstatic final section. The coda is perhaps the most telling part of this music; the hollow harmonics give fragility to the sound that echoes the work’s nostalgic colour and links the close of the work neatly with its opening material and introduction to the slow section. These harmonies feel like the ‘life-blood’ that run through the veins of the piece. Like nostalgia itself (the pain of remembering), Cross Quarter Days is joyous, reflective and sad in equal measure.
There is a fast developing talent here. Wrenn has a natural ease for melodic invention, direct communication, well judged changes of colour and pace and perhaps most rare, she is a composer who writes fresh, new music that’s worth listening to!"
Marc Yeats, 1st September 2012
"Cross Quarter Days" is the title of my third string quartet. The piece is my interpretation of the Pagan "cross-quarter days" - significant dates in the Pagan calendar, which I've allocated a movement each:
I. Imbolc (1st February). I took from this the cold of winter, starting to warm into spring.
II. Beltane (1st May). A lively fire festival, celebrating the coming of summer.
III. Lughnasadh (1st August). This is a harvest festival.
IV. Samhain (1st November). Feast of the dead - "When the veils between this world and the Otherworld were believed to be at their thinnest".
While I don't class myself as a pagan (or indeed identify with any religion), I've taken an interest in reading about the things pagans and neo-pagans believe. Many aspects appealed to me, in particular the way they appreciate and have great respect for nature.
I've included another new track on this release, called "Footsteps Through the Forest". The forest sounds were recorded in Rowney Warren Woods, Bedfordshire in August, and I added cello, drum, rainstick, didgeridoo and bowed glass to complete the soundscape.