Jetez! jumped out to us like a flash of light in the 2012 competition. At just over 5 minutes, Chris Roe's piece presented a concise musical idea filled with texture, unique harmonies, and rhythmic challenges.
Taking its inspiration from watching people throw stones off the edge of a cliff, Jetez! similarly throws notes back and forth the instruments of the string quartet. Alternating between intense glissandi and fast-paced semiquavers, Chris uses these techniques to create the energy build-up before being thrown over the cliff, as well as the suspension of soaring through the air. The piece also travels in waves--melodic lines climb, and then fall.
One of the constant challenges we work on as a quartet is achieving unity of sound. How does a quartet of four separate instruments, all with different colours, timbres, sounds, etc., work together to create one harmonious, balanced sound? There is no easy answer...except that we have to work hard for it. Jetez! in many ways helped us, because the quick figures passing between each instrument forced us to hear the line as if sung by one singleinstrument--which is essentially what a string quartet should aim to be!
Despite the tricky rhythms (jumping between 5/8 and 7/8 meter is no easy task) and technical challenges of Jetez!, we were struck by the harmonies and intervals Chris used. Weaving rich harmonies through seventh chords--no doubt due to Chris's background as a jazz pianist--the middle section of Jetez!erupts into a brief jazz riff with pizzicato accompaniment before falling once again into soaring glissandi. The sound fades away in the end, perhaps representing the last object being thrown into the air and taking flight, floating away and escaping gravity.
Chris Roe is a composition student at the Royal College of Music, London, studying under Kenneth Hesketh. He is winner of the 2011 International Antonín Dvořak Composition Competition, and his works have been performed by the RCM Wind Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, and vocal ensemble Ottovoci.