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Berimbau Quartet no. 1: “Chip”

  • Gregory Beyer (b.1973)
  • Quartet
  • 2014

The opening harmonic progression presented in this quartet comes from two sources of inspiration. My very first composition project for berimbau, “Bahian Counterpoint” (2002) began not so much as a composition as an attempt at an arrangement of Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” for guitarist Pat Metheny. The first movement of “Bahian Counterpoint” hews very closely to the rhythmic patterning of Reich’s “long-breath” manner of presenting a chord progression. The second inspiration for the progression comes from the success of a similar progression in my “Berimbau Trio no. 1.” For the progression presented in this quartet, I developed a consistent way to voice lead from suspensions to chord-tone resolutions in 6 pairs of harmonies. The middle section of the piece was composed first, not for this quartet but as one segment of an original soundtrack for a short film entitled, “Chip”, that film director, Nancy Kiang, commissioned us to create. The film is an intriguing retelling of Anton Chekov’s short story “The Father” and includes gorgeous footage shot in South Africa. Given the historical roots of the berimbau to its ancestors in southern Africa, this geographical connection, although not conscious in Kiang’s mind when she approached Arcomusical, was very inspiring for us as we created the music for the film. – Gregory Beyer

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