String Theory: The Brentano String Quartet Performs the Music of Steven Mackey

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Steven Mackey was born in Frankfurt, Germany to American parents. He attended the University of California for his BA, the State University of New York at Stony Brook for his MA and Brandeis University for his Ph.D. His first musical passion was playing the electric guitar in rock bands in northern California. He later discovered concert music and has composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, dance and opera. Since the mid 1980’s he has resumed his interest in the electric guitar and regularly performs his own work, including two concertos as well as numerous solo and chamber works. Mackey is currently Professor of Music at Princeton University where he has been a member of the faculty since 1985. He teaches composition, theory, twentieth century music, improvisation and a variety of special topics. As co-director of the Composers Ensemble at Princeton, he coaches and conducts new work by student composers as well as 20th century classics. Mackey writes: “I have always loved the string quartet. I was a musically illiterate, teenage rock musician when I first heard a string quartet and it deflected my fate towards concert music in general and composition in particular. The string quartet is a perfectly balanced ensemble in which each instrument can blend with the others or stand in relief, and where each has the possibility of infinite gradations of tonal nuance with a variety of bow strokes and placements, not to mention plucking. The quartet is capable of a wide range of expression, from light-hearted to profound and from bawdy to refined. We know this because some of the greatest music ever written – the greatest music imaginable – confirms these virtues.”

Listen to audio clips:

“I’ve Grown So Ugly”

“Silver Spheres (from Smoke Fragments)”

Purchase from Albany Records