The St. Francis String Quartets are a pair of string quartets with a total duration of 23 minutes, each representing an episode in the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
The first quartet is called The Birds in reference to St. Francis preaching to the birds. It is 6 minutes long.
The second quartet, called The Wolf, is 17 minutes long. The title refers to St. Francis taming the wolf of Gubbio.
Both will be premiered by the JACK Quartet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on 18 December 2012.
The first quartet is devoted to the symbolic representation of bird sounds.
This representation is implemented by means of melodic and contrapuntal techniques that create textures suggestive of chirping and wings flapping, without use of extended techniques.
The second quartet is devoted to the allegorical representation of conversion.
The musical material consists of a mirrored proportional canon. A very long spiral-shaped pentatonic cantus firmus travels through the four voices at five different speeds until the harmonic space is filled up.
The process is repeated several times with different proportions between speeds, sometimes ternary, sometimes binary. Once complete, the canon reverses back to its beginning. A smaller proportional canon is inserted at the inversion point as a hinge.