for string trio

Jack Van Zandt

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for string trio

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Composer Jack Van Zandt

Year of Composition


, ,


ca. 17'


Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-jvz1f1


In Fractal for string trio, Van Zandt put to use for the first time his interests in creating music based on the mathematical models that result from recursion processes. He found a simpler musical precursor for this in the late string quartets of Bartok, but carried the basic idea he found there to every level of Fractal. Under the influence of the work of Douglas Hofstadter’s book Gödel, Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which came out two years after Fractal was composed, the application of these ideas to traditional musical processes became the basis of Van Zandt’s style which he continues to develop in his works to this day. His subsequent investigations into the music of indigenous cultures led him to discover similar techniques of musical construction embedded in some of the oldest music in the world, and he has continued to absorb these and similar ideas from extramusical sources into his compositions.

Fractal is dramatic and very atmospheric, and each instrument gets an equal chance to shine. The initial material expressed in the first bar in the viola is expanded and reinterpreted at different levels, from phrases to main sections to the overall shape of the work. The piece is in three movements—fast-scherzando-slow—that play uninterrupted. However, the second “scherzando” movement is displaced in time and occurs in the middle of the first movement, so the sequence is Ia-II-Ib-III. This schismatic program evolved from the development of the material over time.

Fractal was written in 1977 when the composer was studying with Alexander Goehr in Cambridge and is dedicated to him. The piece was lightly revised in 2005.