This, my third string quartet, found its impetus in two sources – the first was the work of the artist Paul Klee, in whose paintings I saw inspiration for musical ideas; and the second was the idea of a journey, one which begins as a physical negotiation of various terrains and cultures, but which actually ends up as a spiritual travel through life and death.
A number of my previous works have taken inspriation from works of art, notably my second string quartet and third piano trio, but where both those pieces are in a number of movements, each one inspired by a specific painting or sculpture, in my new quartet I wanted to progress from this rather separatist approach and so decided to construct a narrative, both musical and philosophical, which would enable me to incorporate the various musical ideas inspired by the Klee works into a single overall concept.
Of the seven paintings which became important for this quartet, three are to me intimately associated with the idea of place: Pastoral Rhythms, Hammamet with Mosque and The Legend of the Nile. Two more are bound up with the idea of death: Death and Fire and Captive, while another, Ad marginem, is pivotal in the transition between physical and spiritual. The remaining picture, Heroic strokes of the bow, seemed remarkably appropriate in the context of a string quartet: the musical ideas I found there begin the work and recur somewhat altered at various important points, intimating that the protagonists in the drama, represented by the players, are undergoing certain metamorphoses as their journey progresses.
The work does not finish with death, however, since the final painting, Captive, is for me about the mythical ferryman Charon transporting departed souls across the River. In this way, the motion of the work, which has ground to a halt in the face of seeming finality, starts up again as the players begin this final part of the journey.
Towards the Far Country is a single-movement work and lasts just under half an hour.