Partita for Sarah
for amplified solo Baroque Violin
for Sarah Elizabeth Cranor
I wrote “Partita for Sarah” from 2016-2017 for violinist and friend Sarah Elizabeth Cranor. I met
Sarah in the Fall of 2016 at the very beginning of my Master’s degree at Indiana University while she was completing her Doctorate in Baroque Violin pursuing a minor in modern violin. Sarah’s versatility and expertise in both early and new music was one of many initial points of inspiration for this collaboration, a partnership that has been formative in my time in the Jacobs School. One of the areas of research that is of great interest to Sarah is the relationship between performers and composers throughout music history, and in particular the way in which such relationships affect the music that is written when composers have specific performers in mind. As a way to immerse herself into the historic tradition of performer/composer relationships, Sarah had the creative idea to reach out to the Composition Department and have a piece of music written for her by an IU student. I consider myself lucky enough to have been put in touch with her by Don Freund who was my private teacher at the time—and without whom this piece would not have been possible. Over the course of the Fall 2016 semester, Sarah and I met over countless Soma coffees, ancient facsimiles, and quite a few century old musical instruments. After a few months, my longest piece, a 20-minute solo violin Partita was born, and along with it, a beautiful musical friendship for which I am extremely grateful. Sarah premiered the first two movements in 2017.
Sarah and I did quite a bit of research with regard to the strings of the Baroque violin, and I quickly learned that the material qualities of each string is one of the primary differences between Baroque and Modern instruments. The four strings on a Baroque violin are made of sheep gut, and then treated in some way to alter the timbre for a more historically informed tone. The G strings is wound with metal, the D string is braided with copper, the A string is pure gut, and the E string is coated in varnish. Each movement of my “Partita for Sarah” is a rhapsody on one of the four strings and the materials that it is made out of. I wrote the third movement “Gut” as both an exploration of the raw sound of the A string and also a meditative response to the guttural yet pastoral images that were conjured up in the idea of the A string being made purely of the intestines of an animal. The form of the piece traces the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance.