Image by Weston MacKinnon

Grit

2013 • String Quartet / Orchestra • 4'

A swift, edgy quartet. Suitable for intermediate players.

Performed by the Talea Ensemble at the University of Louisville, March 2016.

Image by Bambi Corro

Program Note

Grit is defined as “an abrasive material composed of hard, sharp granules” and also, psychologically, as a personality trait characterized by “firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger, and perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Grit is thus composed to capture the dual meaning of the word.

The structure of Grit portrays concepts of perseverance, struggle, and courage in the face of adversity. This brief work makes abundant use of irregular meters, uneven rhythms, accents, abrupt shifts, and sharp dissonances which, combined, create the rough-around-the-edges sound of the piece. From the first moment, a heartbeat is set—ragged, relentless, and driving perpetually onward. This primary theme punctuates the piece, always different as it transforms through each section, but always returning—rushing to a breathless and triumphant finish.

University of Louisville Graduate String Quartet, November 2014.

Premiere

Praise for "Grit"

Review from the American String Teacher (ASTA) Journal, August 2022

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I highly recommend this string quartet! It is energetic, challenging, and lyrical. My students loved working on it, and I am certain yours will as well. The groove is catchy and will be sure to capture the interest of your students and audience.

The piece is best for an intermediate to advanced student string quartet or small chamber orchestra. It is full of vigor and has a spirit of improvisation and dance. This quartet is challenging, as it includes mixed meter, uneven rhythms, accents, and sharp dissonances. Each part has soloistic passages and will be an excellent challenge for all members of the ensemble. While there are many passages with rhythmic unity, students must have a confident sense of rhythm and independence, as each part has complex solo sections. The Violin 1 part goes into third position frequently, but the other parts do not need to shift often. The greatest challenge of this work is the accuracy of the rhythms.

When programming music, one of my primary goals is to get my students playing music by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and women composers, as it is important for them to see that the composers we perform are like them. Spavelko's quartet is the perfect example of an accessible contemporary work by a female composer. After introducing "Grit" to my students, I have already begun looking for more works by this composer. I hope you give her music a listen. R.A.H.

— Dr. Rebekah Hason, Director of Orchestral Studies, University of Portland

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