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Length: c. 13 minutes

About this Piece

A Shadowy Figure Went Past, for piano quartet, was written in 2023. The starting place for the piece was forgotten material I was working on during COVID, which I rediscovered as short recordings on my iPhone. There were many clips of my prepared piano experiments which I then transcribed and reformed. The piano material, echoing itself with the constant muffling and repeated figures, is filtered, expanded, and then eventually provoked by the strings. Many short gestures meant to be shadows of themselves flash by almost unnoticed. When I was almost finished writing, the recurring images of working with shadow figures led me to use a quote from Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. The idea of using this quote seemed to fit well with what I had already written, and it was ironic that the pitches and intervals I based my piece on—a clear repetitive whole-step motif, with heavy chromatic development, was almost identical to Mahler’s intervals in the first movement of his Ninth symphony. I have been part of many Mahler 9 performances, and every time I’m struck by the section titled “Schattenhaft,” which appears in the first movement at bar 254. Something about the ominous darkness of this section sounds completely modern, and I can never really grasp the meaning of it. It’s perfectly dark and distinct, and I always forget about it until it surprises me every time. I did not initially set out to use this quote in my piece. So I wanted it to show up unannounced, make a quick appearance, and whisk away, much like it does for me when I experience it. My quote leaves out the horn sighs that punctuate this section—we know they’re there, and this moment may provoke a memory of something we can’t quite remember or grasp, much like a quick shadow that passes by. —Joseph Pereira