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GLORIA COATES: String Quartets 1, 5 and 6
Admirably performed by the Kreuzer Quartet, these pieces open a world of constant flux and flow. Coates is the woman who has made her creative life an exploration of structures dominated by multiple, calculated glissandi, microtonality and constant motion. She fits nowhere in the schools and like Partch or Nancarrow has made her own place in musical history. These 3 quartets are different from her orchestra works in the fact that they are stripped down to a few lines. The third movement of the fifth quartet is almost entirely formed of glissandi moving at different tempi and in different directions, but strictly formally organised, so that behind the complex and complete instability of the result lies simplicity and precision. Elsewhere, ghostly melodies rise out of the tonal mist, and then sink back; fragments of driftwood indicate a temporary path through the roiling currents. And there long suspensions and breathless becalments… extraordinary work where ‘all is solid melts into air’.