According to Kotcheff, the biggest influence is Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4. “The chromatic, murmuring texture that prevails throughout in the 2nd movement of this string quartet,” says Kotcheff, “is directly related to the principal murmuring texture of scratch cradle and the way Bartók uses glissandi in this same movement is referenced in scratch cradle as well.”
Scratch cradle program note
The title is derived from the original name of the two person string figure game called Cat’s Cradle. Like Cat’s Cradle, the musical motives of this string quartet interact and move throughout the ensemble in a game like fashion: bouncing around from instrument to instrument and being juxtaposed against one another rhythmically. Timbre wise, the title scratch cradle also captures the central color and performance technique that the piece is built around, the strings instruments’ “scratch tone.”
scratch cradle was commissioned by and written for the Argus Quartet and was premiered on December 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Can you tell us more about working with Argus Quartet on this piece?
Thomas Kotcheff: Argus Quartet and I spent multiple workshops over the course of six months working on scratch cradle — figuring out a number of the extended techniques and seeing how these extended techniques could be combined in different ways to create interesting colors. This process of collaboration was incredible and, by the final draft, some of the best moments of the piece contain musical ideas that were directly suggested by the quartet themselves.