The second of a pair of quartets representing episodes in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. This one is called The Wolf in reference to St. Francis taming the wolf of Gubbio. Premiered by the JACK Quartet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on December 16, 2012.
The second quartet is devoted to the allegorical representation of conversion through a mirrored proportional canon. A long spiral pentatonic cantus firmus travels through the four voices at five different speeds until the harmonic space is filled. This is repeated several times in sequence, with different proportions between speeds. Once complete, the canon reverses back to its beginning around a smaller proportional canon inserted at the inversion point as a hinge.
The resulting harmonies create the illusion of cadences, some with thirds and tuned in meantone, others with fifths and octaves and tuned Pythagorean. This alternation prevents the appearance of a false fifth, known as a "wolf" fifth.
The allegory lies in the parallel between the musical "wolf" and the wolf of Gubbio: St. Francis rendered the wolf of Gubbio harmless through the miracle of conversion, and so the performers render the "wolf" fifth harmless through tuning prowess. In this way the miracle performed by St. Francis is represented in the structure of the piece.