On 2 March at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, the Aris Quartett give the premiere of Another Journey Calls – the latest instalment in John Woolrich’s string quartet cycle A Book of Inventions. Another Journey Calls is the latest piece of the “jigsaw” of the project, which Woolrich has been undertaking since 2017.
Another Journey Calls is part of Volume III. The title of the 11-minute piece evokes Homer’s Odyssey, which provided the inspiration for Woolrich’s widely-performed work for viola and strings Ulysses Awakes. Louise Drewett writes of the piece,
The piece begins in an intense landscape – a thick, matted, reverberating texture in the lowest instrumental registers. A voice from the first violin gradually emerges and ascends, leading to a second episode, where the cello, still deep-toned and energetic, is set against the rest of the ensemble. While the music’s appearance then shifts in totality through various new episodes – some with powerful melody in unison or near-unison, some that feel relatively distant, one that is suddenly filled with pizzicato – there is always continuity in the persistent melodic fragments and the held or quickly repeated groups of notes that echo between the players, as well as a reiterative sense of reaching or ascension. This leads us through a journey that does not necessarily feel linear; rather, some settings appear to be reencountered along the way with a renewed perspective. Only in the final episode do we reach a calmer place where the texture frees up to allow a moment of reflection, before the final, highest ascension.
The 25 quartets, spread across five volumes, have been premiered and programmed by a host of ensembles, including the Ruisi, Bozzini, Benyounes, Sacconi, Ligeti, and Brodsky quartets. The Benyounes, Sacconi, and Salomé quartets have filmed several of their performances of different movements from A Book of Inventions.
In 2021 12 artists - Marianela Orozco, Mick Williamson, Jane Bustin, the Brothers Quay, Tim Hopkins, Ash McNaughton, Diane Dever, Terry Smith, Chelsey Browne, Oote Boe and Gayle Chong Kwan – created video responses to various quartets in the cycle, which are available to view here.