for string quartet
String quartet (Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Violoncello)
Year of composition
Dedicated to Willem Boshoff
Written in memory of Kobus Geldenhuys
Imitationen (‘Imitations’) for string quartet was originally composed for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon as part of a larger work, Fünf Skizzen nach Kunstwerken von Willem Boshoff. This composition was composed with a quasi-twelve-tone system but it does not follow the rules or style of the twelve tone system. Some tones are repeated in the themes and these repetitive tones serve the function of either establishing a tonal centre or preparing the listener for the dominant tonal levels that are about to follow. These chromatic tones which are randomly organized function like a puzzle which can be compared with Boshoff’s Kubus (‘Cube’) on a conceptual level: each of the chromatic tones is a part with a different quality than the part next to it – just like Kubus when opened. These different parts can be put together to form a whole of which this whole can be considered to be a cube when Kubus is closed or as the chromatic scale in terms of music.
Year: 1976 – 1982
Collection: Private Collection
Material: Aluminium, cotton linen, contact adhesive
Size closed: 5 x 5 x 5 cm
Description: This folded-up cube of aluminium “represents the world of existence in the form of an abstracted city” which is contained in the cube and can be revealed when the cube is unfolded (Boshoff, 2007:42). When this cube is unfolded, a shape of steps is revealed which “suggest a stepladder between the spiritual and the habitable worlds.” (Boshoff, 2007:42.) The sequence in which this cube unfolds functions like a combination lock, and Boshoff (2007:42) says that “[t]he opening and closing of books is part of the process of unlocking knowledge. On a conceptual and personal level, the opening and closing of Kubus functions in a similar fashion.” The original prototype was stolen when it was exhibited at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 1981. In 1982 Boshoff started to create a multiple of Kubus in 50 copies (Boshoff, 2007:42).
Kubus by Willem Boshoff – closed
Kubus by Willem Boshoff – completely opened
This movement is based upon three themes which are heard in imitative counterpoint.
Three themes from Imitationen
The first two themes were composed in such a way that one theme fills the gaps in the other theme in order to become one single theme. The third theme contrasts the first two themes mainly in terms of rhythm, register and timbre. Although this composition does not follow the rules or style of the twelve tone system, every theme contains all twelve tones of the chromatic scale. Some tones are repeated in the themes and these repetitive tones serve the function of either establishing a tonal centre or preparing the listener for the dominant tonal levels that are about to follow. These chromatic tones which are randomly organized function like a puzzle which can be compared with Boshoff’s Kubus on a conceptual level: each of the chromatic tones is a part with a different quality than the part next to it – just like Kubus when opened. These different parts can be put together to form a whole of which this whole can be considered to be a cube when Kubus is closed or as the chromatic scale in terms of music.
The movement opens with the first theme in the first violin and violoncello. The counter theme overlaps with the first theme and the two themes combine from mm. 7 onwards. The third theme enters in mm. 15 in the oboe while the first theme is simultaneously heard in the dominant of the dominant and the second theme in the dominant. These transpositions were prepared in the first statement of the first theme when the tonal centres of these tonal levels were heard as tones which repeated in the first theme.
The polished surface of Kubus reminds me of the ‘smooth’ impression one experiences with tonal music and therefore I composed this movement with an underlying tonality. Although this composition has a very strong sense of tonality, several of the techniques which were used in twelve tone compositions are also employed here in sections B and E. These techniques include inversions and retrograded themes. Section C focuses on the first theme which starts together in all four instruments but with a different rhythm of the theme for each instrument. Figures of the first theme are used for the bridge passage to the next section. In section D all three themes are heard simultaneously and these themes break up into two-note figures which go in and out of phase. The motifs in all four instruments are in phase at the end of mm. 87. The last section (F) is a statement of the first theme which transforms into chromatic scales which go up and down. The function of the chromatic figures is to create a contrast with the more stable segments and to deliberately confuse listeners, almost like when one looks at the opened Kubus and wonders how the different shapes fit together to form a cube. The way in which the different parts fit together can be considered similar to the way tonality is construed. Similar to that person opening and closing the cube, the listener of Imitationen will experience contrasting moments of clear understanding versus confusion.
The music score of this composition can be ordered from the composer through the contact page. Please ensure that you provide the correct title and version/instrumentation of the composition that you would like to order.