listen (mp3)

G Train to Smith/9th for string quartet

2001, 7 minutes

G Train addresses the technological sublime – that which is grand, massive, powerful, and awe-inspiring, if not exactly "beautiful," and which derives from human technology rather than from natural phenomena. The G starts in Queens mundanely and underground, but the southern terminal, at Smith and 9th Streets, is something to behold: on a viaduct over the Gowanus Canal, one has an exceptional vista of the skylines of the downtowns of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and also of New York Harbor. The skyscrapers, the BQE, the subway viaduct, the canal, the subway train itself are all agents of the technological sublime.

The piece, which is in a minimalist style, departs a bit from my normal output. Minimalist music is often accused of being entirely static, but I find that minimalism's emphasis on "process" means that in most pieces, the music is going somewhere, just very slowly. For me, the most compelling aspect of minimalism is this gradual motion. Similarly, to a certain type of New Yorker, the G Train seems not to go anywhere, since it never enters Manhattan. Nonetheless, its ridership is growing rapidly, and it provides an essential link between the two largest boroughs. And, of course, it ends with that amazing view...


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  • December 10, 2001: world premiere by Works and Process (now Columbia New Music) at Columbia University, New York, NY.
  • July 29, 2012: French premiere at Classical Revolution Paris by Jennifer Lang and Masha Lankovsky, violins; Sarah Niblack, viola; and Vincent Lopez, 'cello, at Café Chéri(e), Paris.
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