Luke Bedford: Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale

Luke Bedford Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale
Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale

Luke Bedford: Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for string quartet
Luke Bedford
Instrumentation details:
1st violin
2nd violin
Auftragswerk von Wien Modern
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Work introduction

This piece is a reworking of my Wonderful Two-Headed Nightingale for violin, viola and fifteen players. The original title was taken from a 19th century poster advertising a pair of singing conjoined twins: Millie and Christine McCoy. They were born in slavery in 1851, sold to a showman, and yet managed to escape the fate of many performers at freak shows and built a relatively normal life for themselves. Something of their story and the poster intrigued me, and I found parallels with the music I was trying to write. From early on in the composition process I knew that the two soloists would be forced to play either identical or very similar music for most of the piece. I felt the tension between their combined, unified sound and their desire to break free from one another could be richly exploited. But I also knew that they would never be successful in tearing free. They would remain as locked together at the end of the piece as they were at the start. 

The two basic harmonic ideas, from which everything else in the piece is created, are heard in the opening section. The first is familiar: the bare fifths of open strings, while the second is altogether stranger: the flattened F heard in the first climax of the work. These two building blocks – fifths and quarter-tones – are matched in rhythmical terms, by a few short patterns, which are combined in constantly changing ways, so that the overall result is never predictable

There are four definable sections to the piece. After a duet between the first violin and viola, the second violin and cello gradually enter and take over the rhythmic impetus. This builds to a crisis point and the music collapses, leaving only a series of stark chords. Instead of fading away, the opening material springs back into life, bringing the piece to a close.

Luke Bedford

Special prints

Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale

Luke Bedford: Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale

for string quartet , 9’

Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale

Luke Bedford: Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale

set of parts
for string quartet , 9’

World première

Konzerthaus, Wien (AT)
Arditti String Quartet

Other works

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