Early to Rise is very productive within a short span of time—a four-movement string quartet compressed into a single 10-minute unit. It’s also the most recent in a series of Schumann-inspired pieces I’ve written; this time, the seed is a five-note accompanimental figure from his late piano cycle Gesänge der Frühe (“Morning Songs”). At first, Early to Rise uses this figure in a canon, gently cycling through harmonies while its rhythms rub against each other in expanding and contracting patterns.
The following three sections are all built on long crescendi, increasing in register and intensity until they reach “tipping points.”
The first violin instigates the second section with a sped-up version of the five-note figure, forced constantly to modulate by the lower strings’ contrary motion. A chacconne is the foundation of the third movement, though unlike traditional chacconnes, it modulates with each repetition, forming longer, upward-striving wedges.
In the final section, momentum builds in the opposite direction with a simple downward-drifting chorale, picking up speed until it reaches a frenetic conclusion.