Thrum, for guitar quartet (2002) 17′

Commissioned by the Jerome Foundation for the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet.
Premiere—2002, by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Minneapolis, MN.
Recorded by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Innova 858. Buy CD  

Program Note

Poet Donald Hall writes of finding a box of scraps in the attic with the label “string too short to be saved.” The title of this work plays with the thrumming sound a guitar inevitably makes, but also with the notion of string as a bit of thrum. I had in mind the process of weaving bits together to make a sturdy but colorful fabric. I am not a guitarist. But in my exploration of the instrument over several solo and chamber works I found that comfortable hand positions lead to sweet harmonies. Thrum reflects that relaxed harmonic language. A quartet of guitars has a unified sound, like a big, 24-string instrument. But I was equally interested in creating a concertante work, with opportunities for individual display, and the repartee of opposing groups. After a brief and lyrical introduction, a perky theme proposes a buoyant concerto movement, with figurative episodes in between statements. In time, there is a second, more lyrical theme, later the principal theme in longer notes, and finally the two themes together. The slow movement is part philosophy lesson, part stroll to a garden of little bells, where the first notes of the work are recalled, as if in memory. The recessional is leisurely. On the way out of the garden, a developing motive suggests a subject for the final movement’s fugue. A vigorous coda reconciles the guitar’s melodic and chordal natures.  In 2013, the MGQ released a fine recording, played by Joseph Hagedorn, Ben Gateño, Wade Oden and Steven Newbrough.

Praise for Thrum

A new CD by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet features Thrum, written for the group in 2002. More about the recording (Innova 858) here. Reviews:

  • “Four strong pieces, one a masterpiece, all in excellent performances…. The real treasure here is David Evan Thomas’s Thrum. It reminds me of Mirto’s Su Bentu—not so much in style as in invention, expressiveness, excitement, and the fresh voice of the composer. Thomas is not a guitarist himself, but he has written for the instrument and has a wonderful touch. Thomas’ website doesn’t list this as published yet, but one can hope.” –Ken Keaton, American Record Guide, July/August 2013
  • “Perhaps the highlight of the collection; certainly the most classic, the three-part frame as well as the use of such forms as fugue, thematic variation, counterpoint, tonal richness. What is surprising is how this passion to be married to a happy and balanced prevalence of sweet melodies and harmonies relaxed, particularly suited to the instrument of the guitar.” –Filippo Focosi, Kathodik (Italy), 3/24/13