Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on YouTube!

“Natural order? You sound like one of those insane Neo-Catholics.”

Altered-Carbon-2

…is an actual line of dialogue from Altered Carbon, Netflix’s dense and gorgeous sci-fi series about life after death has been digitally defeated. Consciousness has been codified, so you can get “spun up” into a new bodily “sleeve” for all eternity — provided you have the means. But wouldn’t you know it, there’s this weird bunch of religious zealots who object — who make noises about soul and body having more to do with each other than ghost and machine, who think it devilish to deny death and what comes after. Who make noises about human dignity. Remarkable.

It’s chock full of sex and violence, and the dialogue isn’t always the strongest, and the acting isn’t always spot-on. But there’s a lot there, and I’m kinda fascinated. It’d be fun to see some smart Catholic critic dig into it. Heh.

Dreams

It is, of course, common internet knowledge that bitches love mixtapes.

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But dudes like mixtapes too. I know, because The Wife made one for me early on in the whole “she loves me/she loves me not” stage of things. Side A was titled “From love’s first fever…”; Side B, “…to her flame.” (A nice tweak on Dylan Thomas.) First song on Side B was “Dreams” by The Cranberries. (This was before it got used in every film trailer ever.) It was enough to give a young swain hope that he was not a swain in vain.

Anyway, it’s part of our history, and I was sad to hear of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan’s death.

Dept. of Rejected New Yorker Cartoons, New Editor Edition

noodz

Well, The New Yorker got a new cartoon editor, so to celebrate, I sent a new cartoon.

Grace of God and raise your arms…Flood!

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So we had a flood – and thought it was a good time to have a craw boil, Nawlins style….

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Potatoes, 10 minutes; Chicken thighs, 5 minutes; Corn 3 minutes (after return to rolling boil); crawdads, 3 minutes; Shrimp 3 minutes; sausage (what the hell!). And finished off with Peychaud-laden (five dashes!) Manhattans (actually, at that point, frick! – might as well call them Birminghams!). Then cigars and port wine and conversation. Not a bad way to face the flood.

And her hallway moves
Like the ocean moves
And her hallway moves
Like the sea
Like the sea
She says “no, no, no, no harm will come your way”
She says “bring it on down, bring on the wave”
She says “nobody done no harm”
Grace of God and raise your arms
She says “face it and it’s a place to stay”
This, this is the way it was
This, this is the way it is
When the water come rushing, rushing in
She says
She says “anytime”
Raise your arms
Flood
And her hallway
Like…Like…Like a million voices call my name
Like a million voices calling
Not now, not never again…
Sitting here, now in this bar for hours
Strange men rent strange flowers
Seconds to…

To Arena

to arena

            Corpus mortale tumultus
Non tulit aetherios donisque iugalibus arsit.

                        – Ovid

That day the beach crept up on us,
The tide a sideshow of seashells,
We began our sunburn early,
Soaked in warm beer against curly
Sails, a regatta of tassels
Thrown to a chalky blue chalice

Of sky. We drank and drank it in,
Your eyes going crazy with thirst
And whispering about your art.
I sought to touch your skin to sort
Out my feelings. Worse came to worst
And you dozed off mid-sentence, slain

By cervezas, college finals
And sand-strewn immortality:
So California left its mark—
White underbelly of a shark.
The running surf made us dizzy
As it swirled beneath us, runnels

That heralded a tidal wave.
Except it never came. Instead
Your white one-piece provoked a flush
Desire upon your slumber. The flash
Of flesh, your tapering thighs, fed
My eyes, a hurt longing that drove

Me out well past the surf. Earth’s curve
Swallowed up a ship to its mast,
And swam me to shore to search for
More than Crusoe’s evidence, more
Than Friday’s footprints…. I lost
You in the crowd—and lost my nerve

When I found the beach blanket bare—
As if you’d been absorbed and left
No farewell, except sun and shade
That marked your place. With sunset tide
As my witness, the shifting sift
Of sand had scattered you anywhere.

Redound thee unto mine own personage…

all-shakespeare-tragedies-ranked

Dappled Things took the bait… Heh.

With apologies to Dino

Rally, Korrektiv, rally — here cometh Sister Sinjin!

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Friend of Korrektiv Betty Duffy has formed a band and recorded an album. Let that be a spur for your own efforts, and also a spur to go, listen, and purchase.

From the Sister Sinjin blog: What Does Creativity Look Like Within the Covenant and Constrictions of Life’s Obligations?

When we met for the first time we talked about creativity as our culture celebrates it: Freeing yourself from distractions, surrounding yourself with all things beautiful, being lost inside the space created for yourself whether in nature or a coffee shop, throwing off any labels the world has placed on you and discovering your true self. Who doesn’t want all of that from time to time?

 We are at a different stage in our lives, however, where time for leisurely creativity is at a premium. And do we even want that? We all have families and loved ones that we’re not willing to sacrifice to art.

 Elise threw out the phrase “Creativity of Obligation” as a topic for exploration. What does it mean to be creative while embracing the roles, responsibilities and obligations of mother, wife, friend, minister, employee, Christian?

 What if creativity does not flow best into the limitless space we strive to create around ourselves? What if, instead, it is pressed out of us by the constant, repetitive, unending cycle of daily life? What if creativity is not the result of acting on our every desire, but rather what’s found after everything else has been drained from us?

 Maybe there, in the uncomfortable realities of our lives is where creativity is expressed, because it must be in order to survive the exhausting and the mundane. Maybe creativity is more incarnation than transcendence.

 Creativity of obligation requires us to show up with all our baggage and create something anyway.

 Two weeks after we first met we began recording an album. We have carved out space though it has been brief and hard won. Most of our creative process, however, has happened with children surrounding us, in dirty kitchens and cluttered cars.

 If we had all the time and resources in the world we could create something more grand, more elaborate, but not more beautiful. What results will be all of what we had to give in a brief period of time with pinched pennies and crying babies at our side.

 Our obligations do not stop us from creating, they compel us.

Plus ça change…

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Oh, my. A bondage-themed chandelier made from actual women, some cantilevered over the scene, backs arched and hands manacled over their heads, some supine with their legs spread and raised to heaven… Lady Gaga, perhaps? Or Madonna at the height of her “Express Yourself” antics?

Nope. The “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number from 1953’s featherlight rom-com Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. They’ve got women working as candelabras, too!

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Two Very Short Poems about Favorite Fictional Characters of Mine

007 Escapes Again
As Bond jumped from the plane, some were stunned
to see a parachute fly out of his cumberbund.

Kinsey Millhone Moonlights as a Madame
She started a service (somewhat impolitic)
for very private investigations: “Call a Dick”.

Mack in Spokane

Warning: there’s some f-bombs and such … but my hometown Spokane downtown looks pretty funny-fine here. And the production turnaround time is impressive — we saw them filming this downtown just a month ago or so. The video is epic. Lots to see, including a moose head motorbike and Ken Griffey, Jr. in multiple cameos.

Managed to catch Macklemore himself for a photo op with a Potter daughter, yo:

Holland and Mack

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Selections from Guntram, opus 25 by Richard Strauss

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Contrary to what one might gather from this endless Festschrift for Richard Strauss, his life wasn’t simply a succession of triumphs, and his biggest public failure may well have been his first opera, Guntram.

The first video is the overture conducted by Carl Schuricht, and yes, there may be a trace of Wagner, but so what? I actually like it more than many of the Wagner overtures, maybe because I know it’s Strauss, but maybe also because it gets where it needs to go much more quickly than the interminable phrasing in so many of the Wagner pieces. It makes sense in terms of young Strauss’ development as a composer, and you’ll hear melodies in the overture that would fit pretty well in the tone poems he was composing at about the same time——the tone poems that are recognized as the masterpieces by critics who aren’t generally agin music of the period.

So why isn’t Guntram appreciated more? It probably has a lot to do with the libretto written by Strauss himself. A triangular Wagnerian-style story of love and redemption about the minstrel Guntram, the evil Duke Robert and his saintly wife Freihild.

Here is Wolfgang Windgassen singing “Ich schaue ein glanzvoll prunkendes Fest”:

And Leontyne Price singing “Fass’ Ich Sie Bang”:

And if you can’t wait for the end, here also is the finale, performed by the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana conducted by Gustav Kuhn, Alan Woodrow singing.

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Freundliche Vision, by Richard Strauss, performed by Anneliese Rothenberger

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Freundliche Vision
Nicht im Schlafe hab’ ich das geträumt,
Hell am Tage sah ich’s schön vor mir:
Eine Wiese voller Margeritten;
Tief ein weißes Haus in grünen Büschen;
Götterbilder leuchten aus dem Laube.
Und ich geh’ mit Einer, die mich lieb hat,
Ruhigen Gemütes in die Kühle
Dieses weißen Hauses, in den Frieden,
Der voll Schönheit wartet, daß wir kommen.

Other versions by: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Gundula Janowitz, Montserrat Caballe, Hilde Gueden, Barbara Bonney, Arleen Auger, Renée Fleming, Suzanne Danco, Elina Shimkus, Diana Damrau, Karita Mattila, Franz Völker, Hermann Prey, Jonas Kaufmann, Nicolai Gedda, Rudolf Schock, Joseph Schwarz, Julius Patzak, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Hampson, Heinrich Schlusnus, Francisco Araiza and Walter Gieseking

One Short Poem about a Painting

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L’Embarquement pour Cythère (Louvre)
All the elements of a daydream of leisure
fill this fête galante painted by Watteau: sea, an
island, everything lush, and the favonian
spirit of pink cupids borne aloft by pleasure.

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Thus Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Along with a few Beethoven symphonies, Handel’s Wassermusik and Messiah, and Pachabel’s Canon in D, Zarathustra is one of the most well known pieces of music ever written. So thank you, Stanley Kubrick, because it really is worth knowing, and by “knowing”, I mean the whole thing. The sunrise is awesome and beautiful, but it’s worth listening all the way to convalescense and night wandering. And spiritually speaking, it’s worth hearing Wagnerian exvess (Strauss is counted among the greatest conductors of Wagner who ever lived) brought to heel by Nietzschean megolamania (Strauss obviously a fan of the philosopher), and thus closing a chapter in the history of music, or simply history, period, in which a majority of Germans were drunk and distracted enough to immolate as many Jews as they could—Jews, the people who, spititually speaking, made the whole European project possible.

Good thing we’ve moved beyond all that, right?

Listen, and feel triumphant.

Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang (Introduction, or Sunrise)
Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
Das Tanzlied (The Dance Song)
Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)

See also: Eumir Deodato’s funky electronic version from 1972

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Don Quixote by Richard Strauss

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Back to Richard Strauss. Don Quixote is an insanely beautiful cello concerto of sorts, really another of the composer’s great tone poems. From Wikipedia:

Don Quixote, Op. 35, is a tone poem by Richard Strauss for cello, viola and large orchestra. Subtitled Phantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters (Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character), the work is based on the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Strauss composed this work in Munich in 1897. The premiere took place in Cologne on 8 March 1898, with Friedrich Grützmacher as the cello soloist and Franz Wüllner as the conductor.

The score is 45 minutes long and is written in theme and variations form, with the solo cello representing Don Quixote, and the solo viola, tenor tuba, and bass clarinet depicting the comic Sancho Panza. The second variation depicts an episode where Don Quixote encounters a herd of sheep and perceives them as an approaching army. Strauss uses dissonant flutter-tonguing in the brass to emulate the bleating of the sheep, an early instance of this extended technique.

Sections:

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Don Juan by Richard Strauss

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Strauss wrote began this “tone poem” (his own term) in 1887, shortly after conducting Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 1885/1886 in Munich. He was also familiar with Paul Heyse’s play, Don Juans Ende, and a fragment by the German writer Nikolaus Lenau, based on the same subject.

Here are some fine Program Notes for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, by Phillip Huscher:

Strauss’s Don Juan is not Heyse’s, nor Mozart’s, nor Lenau’s—despite words on the title page to the contrary—but a character entirely and unforgettably his own, defined in a few sharp musical gestures. (Now that Strauss’s tone poem—the term he preferred—has conquered the world’s concert halls, the figure of Don Juan is unimaginable without the ardent horn theme which, in Strauss’s hands, becomes his calling card.) Strauss once said his two favorite operas were Tristan and Isolde and Così fan tutte, and this work is informed by both the Wagnerian idea of undying love as well as Mozart’s understanding of passion as a fragile, ever-changing state of mind. It’s no small coincidence that, at the time he was composing this tone poem, Strauss himself fell madly in love with Pauline de Ahna, the soprano who would eventually become his wife.

Strauss worked on two tone poems during the summer of 1888. Macbeth, which gave him considerable trouble and wasn’t finished until 1891, doesn’t profit from comparison with Shakespeare’s play. But with Don Juan, composed in just four months, Strauss discovered the knack (which would rarely desert him thereafter) for depicting character, place, and action of cinematic complexity so vividly that words of explanation are unnecessary. Still, Strauss prefaced the score of Don Juan with three excerpts from Lenau’s poem, and at the earliest performances he asked to have those lines printed in the program. Later, realizing that the public could follow his tone poems, in essence if not blow by blow, he disdained such self-help guides and trusted the music to speak for itself.

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Ständchen by Richard Strauss, sung by Kathleen Battle

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

This was written in 1887, the second of six Lieder published as opus 17, originally poems by Adolf Friedrich, Graf von Schack (1815 – 1894). Just 24 at the time, Strauss was already the the court music director in Meiningen and well on his way in his career as a conductor and composer.

Albert Combrink has written a great little precis of the song, including an explanation of what different keys meant to Strauss. He also includes a translation that’s better than the bubbles in the Battle video above.

Ständchen by Adolf Friedrich, Graf von Schack (1855-1894)

Mach auf, mach auf, doch leise mein Kind,
Um keinen vom Schlummer zu wecken.
Kaum murmelt der Bach, kaum zittert im Wind
Ein Blatt an den Büschen und Hecken.
Drum leise, mein Mädchen, daß [nichts sich]1 regt,
Nur leise die Hand auf die Klinke gelegt.

Mit Tritten, wie Tritte der Elfen so sacht,
[Die über die Blumen]2 hüpfen,
Flieg leicht hinaus in die Mondscheinnacht,
[Zu]3 mir in den Garten zu schlüpfen.
Rings schlummern die Blüten am rieselnden Bach
Und duften im Schlaf, nur die Liebe ist wach.

Sitz nieder, hier dämmert’s geheimnisvoll
Unter den Lindenbäumen,
Die Nachtigall uns zu Häupten soll
Von unseren Küssen träumen,
Und die Rose, wenn sie am Morgen erwacht,
Hoch glühn von den Wonnenschauern der Nacht..

Ständchen in free translation by Albert Combrink

“Love Song”

Open up, open up, but softly my child,
So as not to wake anyone from their sleep,
The stream is barely murmuring, the wind hardly causes quivers
In a leaf on bush or hedge.
So, softly, my young girl, so that nothing stirs,
Just lay your hand softly on the door-latch.

With steps as soft as the footsteps of elves,
that hop over the flowers,
Fly lightly out into the moonlit night,
Sneak to me in the garden.
Around us sleeps the blossoms along the trickling stream,
Fragrant in sleep, only love is awake.

Sit down, here it darkens mysteriously
Beneath the linden trees,
The nightingale over our heads
Shall dream of our kisses,
And the rose, when it wakes in the morning,
Shall glow from the joyous showers of the night.

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Piano Quartets by Richard Strauss and Johanness Brahms

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Piano Quartet in C minor, opus 13, by Richard Strauss

A few weeks ago I compared Clarinet Quartets by Mozart and Brahms to show what each reveals about the historicity of music, and how composers can use notes outside the key signature of a given piece to emphasize chromaticism (from χρώμα, color) over diatonicism (διατονική, notes belonging to the prevailing key). Chromaticism abounds in these piano quartets by Richard Strauss and Johannes Brahms. From program notes to Strauss’ Piano Quartet, by Eric Bromberger:

in 1883, at the age of 19, Richard left college and moved to Berlin to study music, and in the process he discovered a new model: Johannes Brahms. Brahms was at this point only 50 years old and at the height of his powers – his Third Symphony had just been premiered, and he was about to begin his Fourth (in fact, Brahms and the young Strauss would meet at the premiere of the Fourth Symphony in October 1885).

Under the new influence of Brahms, the teenaged composer began his Piano Quartet in C minor in the spring of 1884 in Berlin and completed it later that year. This music shows an unusual fusion of musical personalities – the sobriety and grandeur of Brahms are here wed to the fire and impetuous virtuosity of the young Strauss. The Piano Quartet is a big piece (35 minutes), it has a rich, dark sound, and it develops its ideas with a blazing energy.

The quiet opening of the Allegro is deceiving, for the music will quickly explode in a shower of energy, and that sharp contrast may be a key to this sonata-form movement: moments marked con espressione or tranquillo will instantly give way to superheated passages marked molto appassionato or agitato. This opening movement is the most “Brahmsian” in the Quartet, particularly for its dark sonority, its development of small thematic motifs, and its dramatic scope – the movement drives to a close that is virtually symphonic in conception and sound.

The Scherzo, marked Presto, is full of quicksilvery motion and a great deal of energy, especially in the pounding octave drops that recur throughout. A flowing trio section leads to a return of the opening material, and Strauss recalls a bit of the trio section before the movement whips to its Prestissimo close.

After two such powerful movements, the Andante brings a measure of calm. The piano’s lovely opening idea gives way to the viola’s lyric second subject, and Strauss extends these two themes gracefully. The concluding Vivace returns to the mood and manner of the opening movement. Its fiery beginning, full of sharp edges and syncopated rhythms, leads to the cello’s calm second theme (molto con espressione, specifies Strauss), and these two ideas are developed at length – and with a great deal of virtuosity – before the music hammers its way to the conclusion on a firm C-minor chord.

The Piano Quartet in C minor was premiered in Weimar on December 8, 1885, and the following year it won first prize (among 24 entrants) in a piano quartet competition sponsored by the Tonkünstlerverein of Berlin. But this music represents a direction the young composer did not choose to follow. With his Violin Sonata of 1887, Strauss would say goodbye forever to chamber music: ahead of him lay the great tone poems, which wed a slashing orchestral virtuosity with the most vivid pictorial imagination. Chamber music (and the influence of Brahms) were no longer of interest to him, and this Piano Quartet – trailing clouds of Brahms – represents one of the last moments of Strauss’ youthful apprenticeship before he discovered the path to his own musical independence.

Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor opus 60, by Johannes Brahms

And from Russell Steinberg’s website, here are Secrets from the Brahms Opus 60 Piano Quartet:

The great C minor Piano Quartet, op. 60 shows the art of a lion tamer and is easily one of Brahms’ finest achievements. He began the piece while living with Clara Schumann and helping run the Schumann household while Robert was in the mental asylum. Brahms was candid that the brooding quality of the piece was a direct reference to Werther, Goethe’s Romantic hero of unrequited love who eventually commits suicide. To his publisher he wrote, “On the cover you must have a picture, namely a head with a pistol to it. Now you can form some conception of the music! I’ll send you my photograph for the purpose. Since you seem to like color printing, you can use blue coat, yellow breeches, and top-boots.” That was the exact description of Werther and 20 years later Brahms was able to joke about his hyper-passionate feelings.

The piece was originally in C# minor, the key used by E.T.A. Hoffman’s famous character, the hypersensitive composer Kreisler (on whom Schumann wrote his famous piano suite Kreisleriana). So it is transparent that Brahms was embroiled working out his growing feelings for Clara amid the tragedy of Robert.

The name of Clara appears immediately in the musical notes, based on Schumann’s own musical motto for Clara—C#-B-A-G#-A, which Brahms in his revisions transposed in C minor to: Eb-D-C-B-C. A discerning ear will hear this motto and variations of it throughout the piece.

But for us this is significant mostly in that it took Brahms 20 years to sort this all out in a piece of such ambitious Beethovenian grandeur. Changing the key of the piece to C minor itself is a Beethovenian move, and the quartet certainly recalls the drama and fate motives of Beethoven’s C minor pieces. The finale deliberately recalls Beethoven’s stormier piano sonatas (op. 2#1 last movement particularly) as well as quotes of the 5th symphony motto. And placing the slow movement after the Scherzo can’t help but recall Beethoven’s similar decision in the 9th symphony.

The two overriding compositional ideas in the quartet are the sigh figure and the octave. The sigh’s two descending notes imbue gloom and expression, while the octave lends a power and drama. Frequently these ideas are bound together. The piece begins with octaves in the piano followed by the sigh figure in the strings. The second phrase begins a full step lower, as if the piece has literally fallen, and thereby creating a sigh figure on a longer structural level between phrases. The opening of the Scherzo is an octave followed by the sigh figure inverted (going upwards). The slow movement descends in an arpeggio down an octave followed by an inverted sigh. With Brahms’ technique of developing variation, it is not an exaggeration to say all four movements are a continual evolution of these two ideas bound tightly together.

Yet a deeper unifying “secret” of the work lies embedded in its harmonic construction. Strange moments seem to subvert the tonality of C minor. For instance, after the opening bars comes a suspended moment where the viola plucks E natural, a note that is as distant from C minor as possible, confusing our ear as to whether we are in C minor or C major. This E natural becomes in the highest sense of the word, an “irritation” that accumulates as the movement develops, until in the recapitulation when a significant passage modulates entirely to E minor. The third movement of the piano quartet itself is in E major.

This subversion of C minor with E is a telltale that there is a bigger harmonic game going on beneath what at first might seem standard classical structure. What Brahms has done is to organize the entire work around an augmented triad—C-E-G#, far more than a traditional minor triad—C Eb-G. The augmented triad is the “key” that unlocks so many of the strange and wonderful harmonic and melodic impulses of the work. Sometimes the sound of the augmented triad is on the musical surface—such as the opening theme of the slow movement G#-E-C-A etc. Most other times, though, the augmented triad is the secret underpinning of larger progressions, such as the areas of the development section in the first movement around a G augmented triad—G-B-Eb.

Whence the hidden augmented triad structure? My hunch is that the augmented triad is the fusion between the original key of the piano quartet—C# minor—and the finalized key—C minor. A C# minor triad is the notes C#-E-G#. A C minor triad is the notes C-Eb-G. A tonic “fusion” of these two would be the augmented triad C-E-G#. Similarly, the “fusion” of the dominant chord would be G-B-D# which is precisely the structure Brahms uses to alternate throughout the quartet.

This may seem overly technical, but there is a poetic idea behind it. C# minor was the key that represented for Brahms the suicidal unrequited lover. C minor was the key of Beethoven that represents heroic struggle. Brahms used the fusion of these two harmonic centers as a device to represent the powerful music drama of this piano quartet.