Commissioned by the Balkan Quartet
In the fall of 2008, I was approached by members of the Balkan Quartet and commissioned to write a new work for them. The quartet is comprised of wonderful young performers, mostly hailing from Serbia, who champion music written by Balkan composers or utilizing musical elements from the region. In addition to agreeing to compose a new work for them, I also invited the quartet to perform as special guest artists on my ongoing neoPhonia New Music Ensemble series held on the campus of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.
I had been a bit unclear as to how I would approach this proposed work until I heard the group perform live on my series. Their performance was filled with exuberance, wonderful musicianship and much joy. While I had originally contemplated a larger, more serious work for the quartet, I quickly decided to try and write a work that I thought would capture the sense of joy I felt in hearing the Balkan Quartet perform.
The result of the commission, JoyTones, is a work filled with northern Greek and Balkan rhythms and abstracted scales and harmonic elements from the region. A northern Greek folk melody actually serves as the basis for the piece. It is not heard in its original form until over half way through the piece, making its first appearance in the viola. However, it is fully revealed in an energetic setting at the conclusion of the composition.