The Brooklyn four-piece Attacca Quartet channel the joy of music and creativity and the excitement of being physically together again on their upcoming album "Of All Joys" for Sony Classical. The album features their original take on great works from both the Minimalist movement and the Renaissance era. Today, they share the first single "Weep, O Mine Eyes," their own version of English composer John Bennet’s famous madrigal. Peaceful and meditative, the plaintive, melancholic strings conjuring a deep stillness and sense of majesty.
Taken from upcoming album "Of All Joys" – the title of which is an adapted lyric in John Dowland’s beloved madrigal "Flow my Tears" that the quartet has arranged and featured – the first single "Weep, O Mine Eyes" was chosen for both its beauty, and its legacy. "We wanted to point out the direct lineage of the madrigal from Luca Marenzio to Bennet and to Dowland, and its history concurrent with secular music," says violinist Domenic Salerni. "They are no less spiritual or enlightened than works created for strict ecclesiastical use."
Featuring music by Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, as well as several other Renaissance composers, "Of All Joys" is centered around the six movements of Glass’ "String Quartet No. 3 (“Mishima”),” which were themselves excerpted from Glass’ score for Paul Schrader’s 1985 film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Dramatizing the life and death of Yukio Mishima, considered one of Japan’s most important and influential writers of the 20th Century, the quartet was drawn to how Glass created musical movements that resonated within the thematic structure of the film, yet that also reached outside and into the kind of deep soul-searching that "Of All Joys" asks of its listeners.
"Of All Joys" is a project that began with the group - Amy Schroeder [violinist], Domenic Salerni [violinist], Nathan Schram [violist], and Andrew Yee [cellist] – nominating their favorite pieces from both the Minimalist movement and Renaissance era, and considering how modern works resonate with what came before. The works chosen are unique in their harmonic structures as well as their instrumentation, and while some are vocal works and some are for strings, none were actually originally written specifically for string quartet. "We just want to play music we love, whether it’s written for our medium or not," says violinist Amy Schroeder.
Such juxtapositions aid one of the quartet’s key beliefs – that music is music. "We truly believe in the beauty and importance of music from all eras," says Schroeder. "Lineage is a beautiful thing in and of itself, and being able to get a glimpse into life and art of the past is a unique privilege."
This translates to a rich sense of reverence for each of the works featured, but a freshness too. And, above all, respect and admiration, and love for the art. "In many ways, this album expresses one of the biggest reasons one would choose to play in a string quartet," says Schroeder. "The beautiful organ-like chords and the purity of the harmony in these pieces are extremely satisfying and even when ‘sad’ in nature, they are a true joy to play."
"There was a feeling that we were recording music we had been deprived of – and we hadn’t been so moved by music we had to stop and weep between takes. Hopefully, we captured the joy of being able to soak all that in," says cellist Andrew Yee of "Of All Joys," and how isolation affected the quartet.
"It is about the joy of being together and making something that is more beautiful than you can make yourself," says violinist Domenic Salerni.
Transmitting all of this through music is not easy, yet “Of All Joys” is possessed of a rare depth and solemnity. Vitality too. For the joy to be found in communion can be fleeting; "Of All Joys" suggests we cherish it when we can.