The string quartet was my first project as a Master's student at FSU. This movement took the longest of the three to write, as it took me a while to familiarize myself with the idiom. I came up with the title after finishing this movement, and named the next two movements before they were written.
The Cynics is written in a 5-part arch form, ABACA. Tonally, it starts and ends on F and the internal sections fall through a diminished chord to an extended dominant pedal on C. In order, the keys of the section are: F, E, A, F#, Eb, C, F.
I started this movement with an eight bar chord progression and used that under the initial melody. Now, some months later, there's a few spots in the very beginning that are a little weak, but nothing life-threatening. The fourth and fifth sections sound very cohesive, because I wrote them in a sudden spurt of creativity over a couple weeks. The first, third, and fifth sections are pretty unique to this movement, while the second and fourth sections generate a lot of the material for later movements.
The second movement wrote itself pretty quickly with the exception of a small section in the middle. I borrowed a lately-introduced 3/4 theme from the fourth section of the first movement and used that as the central theme of this movement. I realized after the fact that it sounds like a Rachmaninoff theme, and apparently it also sounds like an old dance theme from the Swing era.
The movement starts with a duet between the cello and viola, and blurs through key centers in D and Eb. The middle section (in an ABA layout) starts with a faster pizzicato beat, almost like a formal dance. At the end, the piece falls from D into C# for a (hopefully) rousing climax in 12-bar blues format. From C# it suddenly falls onto C to end. The climax borrows from the second section of the first movement, but the middle themes are all new.
This movement tends to get a little cheesily Romantic, but I think it works pretty well.
Rachmaninoff - Symphony No. 2
I had a very strong plan in my head for this movement, but it pulled itself in another direction towards the end. The form is an AABA form, again descending by half steps through key centers. The first theme, played by the first violin naturally drops a half step when it reaches its end, so I used this to reach interesting keys. The overall key map is C, F, E, Eb, D, A, Db, C, F.
When I wrote this, I wanted to explore a Latin dance feel, similar to much of the Latin work by Chick Corea. After the introductory motive which is new, everything else in this movement is developed from previous movements. I think the rhythms may be difficult for players who aren't rhythmically strong, but they should feel good once they're under the players' fingers.