Mokele Mbembe

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MOKELE MBEMBE (2001)  Premiered March 5, 2003 at Alfred Newman Hall, Los Angeles, CA
String Quartet #1
I. Approach
II. Hunt
III. Lament
12 min.

After having listened to and studied several of Bartok’s String Quartets,  I was overwhelmed at trying to come up with something original and respectable in addition to trying to define my own system of writing and developing my musical voice.  I started listening to recordings of actual Pygmies tribal music from the Belgian Congo and was fascinated by the mind-boggling sets of complex rhythms, which drove a simpler pentatonic harmonic scheme. There are various string techniques throughout the piece in juxtaposition with 5-against-3 and 2-against-3 rhythms. The Pygmies and Bartok were the inspiration behind what you will hear.

The program of the piece is based on an arguably anomalous African legend about a creature named by the natives as Mokele Mbembe. Hiding within the Likouala swamps of the Congo this creature would periodically attack the villagers’ canoes. Eventually the villagers hunted the creature down and killed it, but they claim there are still sightings of others.

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