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Shocked Quartz

Violin, Clarinet, and Piano

Score sample

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Shocked Quartz

Shocked quartz is a form of the mineral quartz which shows deformation on a

microscopic, structural level. It begins as normal quartz, but under an extreme amount of pressure, its crystalline structure and appearance are permanently altered. Shocked quartz can be found in meteor impact craters, such as the Chicxulub crater; but scientists first discovered it following underground tests of nuclear bombs, whose detonation deformed quartz in the surrounding bedrock.

When I began writing this piece for the Zodiac Trio, the world was still grappling with the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the United States was reeling from a year of what felt like near-constant crisis, culminating in the U.S. Capitol riots of January 6, 2021. With each new event — the pandemic, the death of George Floyd, innumerable natural disasters — it felt as if we had reached a new point of no return. It felt as if my worldview, and my community’s, were never going to be the same (and in some cases, shouldn’t be). In the relative calm of August 2021, I began writing this piece with the shocked quartz phenomena in mind. My intention was to reflect on the past year: its chaos, its turmoil, and the sheer number of things that had seemingly changed forever after each new impact. I wanted to explore my emotions and anxieties around that time, around this sense that we could never undo the effects of these crises; and I wanted to see if I couldn’t find within these emotions a sense of determination and resolve.

Shocked Quartz begins with an explosion whose content contains all the seeds of musical material for the piece. While the explosion never returns, its effects are felt for the entirety of the work. Every gesture is derived from a handful of musical materials — a trichord, a rhythmic trope, a voicing strategy — present in the initial five seconds. As the piece progresses, the music endeavors to leave the material and introduce new ideas, but is ultimately always pulled back into the parent material. The pressures of the explosion forever define the rules of the composition, and the music is trapped inside.

Shocked Quartz is dedicated with immense gratitude to the Zodiac Trio.

Score and Parts: $35

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