Intimate Voices was composed in the summer and early fall of 2015 for the Lyris Quartet as part of their “Intimate Letters” project. The project involved their recording of Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2 (Intimate Letters) as well as works by four commissioned composers responding to the Janacek in some way. I have always been struck by how little Janacek’s work corresponds with my conception of intimacy. I decided my work would explore my own notion of intimacy. In it, I exploit the gentle side of the string quartet – muted sonorities, quiet dynamics, delicate gestures – with ideas unfolding gradually and organically in a single formal arc.
Although the mood of Intimate Voices contrasts strongly with that of the Janacek, its materials all owe their genesis to two prominent themes from Intimate Letters. The passionate opening theme of the first movement appears transformed into a searching melody that first appears nearly halfway through the work and becomes the principal melodic idea for Intimate Voices. But the core of the work comes from the eerie melody introduced by the viola about ten seconds into the first movement of Intimate Letters. The first four notes of this theme – G-C-F#-D – become the harmonic and melodic palette from which the entirety of Intimate Voices evolves.