Willem Boogman




17 minutes

commissioned by

Schönberg String Quartet

dedicated to

Beatrijs Escher-Jongert


December 10, 1999
Nederlandse Muziekdagen
Utrecht, Vredenburg

Schönberg Quartet

buy the score


Called Back

for string quartet (1997, revision 2001)


Live recording of the premiere, mp3

program note | toelichting (NL)

In this quartet sound propagation is realized without spatial placement of the players. The work makes use of the most important characteristic of tones: carefully projected into space, they appear to settle there temporarily. We hear tones manifest themselves in relation to their previous positions. This phenomenon allows for the suggestion of spiral-form rotating movements.

This spiral movement is the basic form of Called Back. Musically speaking, it passes through fully melodic ›tone nuclei‹, which claim a central role, and far-removed, nearly empty tone constellations. The spiral is continually in motion: tones approach a melodic nucleus, are absorbed by it and then expelled, etcetera.

Called Back has four clearly recognizable melodic nuclei. The first one appears in measure 35 in the form of a lyrical melody. The second, in m. 154, is characterized by ascending tones that briefly hover in space. Following a lengthy exposé on the tone E-flat, a number of Varèse-like motives appear, distinguished by their sharp articulation. Finally (beginning in m. 420), an indeterminate melodic nucleus is introduced as a sort of suppressed melody. The piece closes with the repetition of a chord that is slightly different from the work’s opening chord. If they were identical it would represent a closed circle, but in this music nothing returns exactly as it was. That is the essence of spiral movement: a return to almost, but not exactly, the same point. It is like a dance encircling a Farewell, which is never definitive and therefore all the more painful.

The motto of this composition is:
»...Parting is all we know of heaven
And all we need of hell.«
Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems, no. 1732

On 14 May 1886 Emily Dickinson wrote to her cousins: »Called Back. Emily«
The inscription on her tombstone reads: CALLED BACK / MAY 15, 1886
[Called Back is the title of a novel by Hugh Conway, a book she so admired that she took its title with her.]

(translation: Jonathan Reeder)


»In Called Back we came into an almost unearthly universe (-). All sound possibilities of bowing, sliding and overtones were explored to the limits.« Jurriaan Meyer in Utrecht Dagblad, December 11, 1999
»Beautiful music both elaborate and logical.« Ernst Vermeulen in NRC Handelsblad, December 13, 1999

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