Blank Canvas (SQ)

Duration: 20 minutes
Year: 2021

Audio Excerpt

V – Stippling

Program Notes

Blank Canvas (2021) is a 20-minute work for string quartet divided into five movements which are inspired by painting techniques. The first movement, “Blending, Layering”, begins with a virtuoso violin solo that activates long lines that are passed onto the rest of the quartet. Each of these lines take on a life of their own as they move in and out of the texture. In “Splattering”, the quartet uses pizzicati within an asymmetric metric grid to create a vivid and playful tapestry reminiscent of abstract contemporary canvases. “Sgraffito” is the Italian word for “Scratched”, whereby a superficial layer is scratched away to reveal a deeper pattern. This movement begins with quiet rhythmic motifs that slowly coalesce into longer legato lines.

In “Calligraphy”, I turn to the spirit of Chinese calligraphy for inspiration. The calligrapher creates characters using exacting strokes that begin with an attack, sustain, and then release. “Stippling” closes out the quartet and is a key technique in the development of pointillism where shapes are created using small dots.

The work was completed between 2020 and 2021, and was commissioned by the Lunenburg Academy of Music for the Verona Quartet. Special thanks to Burt Wathen for initiating this collaboration, and for the Canada Council for the Arts for their generous support.

Performance History

  • November 28, 2021, Verona Quartet
    Lunenburg Academy of Music
    Lunenburg, NS, Canada
  • January 14, 2022, Verona Quartet
    Town Hall Seattle
    Seattle, WA, USA
  • June 19, 2022, Verona Quartet
    Lunenburg Academy of Music
    Lunenburg, NS, Canada
  • August 1, 2022, Verona Quartet
    Ottawa ChamberFest
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • June 17, 2023, Verona Quartet
    Lunenburg Academy of Music
    Lunenburg, NS, Canada


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