The first, second and third movements of the “Southern Wind” string quartet were composed by Don Robertson in 1996 and 1997 while the composer resided in Richmond, Virginia. The forth movement was composed during the year 2000 at the composer’s residence near Atlanta, Georgia.
Don Robertson believes that music should to be composed for its effect, not in response to preconceived ideas of form and style. Breaking out of the chains that seem to have been binding composers, Robertson is in this string quartet venturing where few composers are daring to go, returning to style of romanism developed durning the 19th Century.
This string quartet is about Joy, Life, Love, and Celebration. Don Robertson believes that these are the kinds of qualities that will be increasingly instilled into the classical music of this century as more composers realize the truth and the true purpose of music.
The composition of the first movement was the result of a dream that the composer had in January 1996. Mr. Robertson had been contemplating the writing of a quartet since 1990. Composition began when one morning he awoke and realized that the first eight bars of the first movement had been clearly presented to him in a dream. He quickly wrote down what he had heard, then allowed the creative process to continue to flow, writing the next three or four pages of music. Later that day, the middle section of the first movement was revealed to him while he was at his day job and he quickly wrote that down on the back of a piece of computer print-out paper.
The composer created the second movement while on a visit to Colorado. It was quickly transcribed in one session at the piano. Mr. Robertson intended to write only one more movement, a fast movement, to complete this work, but this changed when he awoke one morning in 1997 hearing the principal melody and the main material for a new movement, in 3/4 time. He quickly wrote this down, and the rest of the composition came quickly.
The composer explains how this occurred:
“I had no intention of writing a third movement and the reason why was because I knew that using the typical four-movement structure of a traditional string quartet, one would probably write a first movement in, say, medium speed, followed by a second movement in a slow speed, then a third movement in 3/4 time–such as the scherzo and minuet movements of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven–then finally a quick-paced forth movement. This is pretty standard practice for string quartets in the repertoire. I had never developed a fondness for scherzo and minuet movements and I simply did not want to write one. So I was quite shocked when I awoke dreaming such a movement. After I wrote it down, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I do, however. Receiving compositions in dreams is clearly a confirmation of the reality of the creative process, where the artist’s gift is the ability to transform art that is given from higher forces, thus bringing higher art into this lower world. I believe all great art is the result of such a transformation.”
The composer describes his forth movement in the following quote:
“The forth movement? Yes, you are right, I did wait a long time to write that. I kept intending to do so, but there was so much going on in my life. Finally, in December of 2000, I decided I would take some time to complete it. I had about ten days of vacation from my day job at my disposal and the forth movement was on my priority list. Just to show you how the creative process can work, on the first day of this ten-day period, I anxiously sat at the piano to begin the work of composing. I had known for a long time just how the movement would begin, so I started playing with ideas. I did this for about ten minutes and then gave up, knowing that I was just dilly-dallying. Either the music comes to you or not. I am quite familiar with the manner in which I receive my music. It is a gift, and I don’t intend to butcher it by trying to “figure out” what I am to write. So I put my pencil down and I said, I would like to write this movement, but I just don’t feel like it, so I am going to go do something that I feel like doing.
“I forgot about writing the movement and took care of some of the other things that I had to attend to. On the second to the last day of this ten-day vacation period, I decided that I would prepare my manuscript book with some pre-drawn bar lines so that when I did eventually write the forth movement, I wouldn’t have to stop to do the menial chore of drawing these lines. As I was drawing these simple lines into the manuscript book with a ruler, I clearly heard what was going to be the opening melody. I started writing it down, and it kept coming and coming. I sat at the piano the rest of that day and most of the following day, taking breaks when I needed to, allowing the music to flow onto the paper. And that is how the forth movement of my string quartet was composed.”