Roots Run Deep (string quartet)


Program Note: In a conversation with my maternal grandfather (Pépère), he made an obvious and yet striking comment about his reality. “My roots run deep here.” He is referring to the Houle family farm, located in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on which he has lived his entire life. All 90+ years of it. For much of this time things really have not changed. For the bulk of its years it has been a dairy farm. It has always produced maple syrup. The scenery has always been gorgeous and the barn cats are numerous. His existence is so intertwined with the place that acknowledging his deep roots in the farm is a trivialization; they are at once tranquil and grounded while simultaneously aggressive and unyielding.

On a visit to the farm in July 2011, my grandmother (Mémère) gave to me two old gifts: a family book of French hymns and a violin that had been owned by my great-grandfather. As the most avid musician in the family these were precious and inspirational gifts to me. The violin was an instrument my great-grandfather chose not to teach to his son as his existence on the land was being secured. Thus it has been largely unused for many years revealing the aggressive and unyielding nature of his roots. Upon my return to Chicago, I played through the old hymnbook and was drawn to the tranquil beauty of Gounod’s Le ciel visité la terre and Riga’s Christ adoré. In a humble effort to awaken the ‘spirit’ of the old violin through the inspiring roots of my grandfather, I have employed these two hymns as the melodic foundation for Roots Run Deep. Dually tranquil and aggressive; the music’s gravity persistently pulls the listener upward. The piece has also been arranged for full orchestra.

Instrumentation: string quartet

Duration: 10 minutes
Date: 2011, rev. 2015