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Published on Sep 12, 2013
The Harlem String Quartet from the world premiere performances, September 15-17, 2007.
Figure -- shape or contour -- is a term used in several of the arts: "figure of speech" in literature, and the human form, or just the countenance, in drawing. In music, a figure is an identifiable sequence of pitches with a characteristic rhythm. Longer than a motive yet shorter than a theme, the musical figure need not be worked out or varied upon its returns; if the composer wishes it can simply remain itself.
Everything in String Quartet -- The Figure derives from the three-part figure of the opening bars -- a "sighing" chromatic two-chord unit, motive of four quick notes then a longer one, and a forceful downward progression. The first movement, In Shadow, is an essay in three parts. Dramatic and rhetorical in its outer sections, its mid-section scurries in fast compound meters and calls for foot-stamps as added energizers, arriving eventually in the highest registers. In that "shadows" can conceal or reveal, the movement is marked "With Passion".