We have gone to see the wonderful, vibrant St. Lawrence String Quartet. It was one of those unusual concerts in which I was fully engaged throughout in the music. The Quartet played music by Haydn, Ravel, and John Adams. I had looked forward especially to hearing Adams’s “String Quartet,” which was composed for the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The Adams piece began with minimalist repetition, progressed to throbbing rock and roll, and by the end of the first movement seemed to have included every other style of music and several appliance sounds, including gurgles of the kitchen sink. I enjoyed the Adams, and his “String Quartet” pleased my desire for new music, but it was the Haydn string quartet—or maybe the second movement of the Ravel “String Quartet in F major—that pleased me the most.
During the concert, I thought about the music of Glenn Gould, whose humming as he plays Bach one can hear on his recordings. For Gould, I think the performance—even existing as it was as a recording—was an all-encompassing experience and less about perfection than it was about expression of artistry, which included humming the tune. The St. Lawrence String Quartet, whose violinists tapped their toes and periodically slapped their soles to the tunes, also vividly and bodily expressed the music.