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Coyote Turns

string quartet (2004)

Live Recording—6.15.18
Musicians of the Seattle Symphony
Mikhail Shmidt and Brittany Breeden, violins; Sayaka Kokubo, viola; Eric Han, cello
[untitled] 3 concert series
Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA


Movement I: openings
Musicians of the Seattle Symphony
Artur Girsky and Natasha Bazhanov, violins; Sayaka Kokubo, viola; Meeka Quan DiLorenzo, cello
Video: Strangelife
Visuals: Belle & Wissell, Co.


Duration: 16 minutes
Supported by: The Vassar College W. K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts
Premiere: March 29, 2007
Ne(x)tworks at North River Music, Greenwich House Music School, New York, NY

program note

Coyote Turns is scored for string quartet and was written in Barcelona, Spain, and Washington, DC, with support from the Vassar College Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts. The piece consists of five movements bearing the following titles:

1. openings
2. filigree
3. intensities
4. ecstatic
5. tumble

The composition is constructed from a small amount of musical material built into several short intertwining rhythmic phrases. These phrases appear and reappear throughout the piece, always placed within a different framework. At times the music flashes through a series of these rhythmic blocks, while in other instances, it travels through a slow building up or tearing down of a phrase.

While working on this music, I was reading Indigenous American tales about the Coyote. Traditionally, the Coyote is characterized as a trickster or prankster, often appearing when life becomes too serious. He creates elaborate plans to achieve goals that often backfire or take humorous unexpected turns. Some Coyote stories teach lessons about how to behave by showing what NOT to do! In a few stories, it is Coyote who places the stars in the sky and creates the constellations. I am particularly interested in this aspect of Coyote; his artistic side, painting animals and legends with stars. Sometimes he is instructed to do so, or sometimes he takes the task upon himself, but in either situation, he completes the process by flinging his bag of leftover stars into the sky. Coyote’s playfulness and creative spirit; the surprising twists and turns that carefully made plans often take—are expressed in the music.

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