String Trio

for violin, viola and violoncello


Despite compositions by Mozart and Beethoven the String Trio has not received the attention from composers in the later times.

Schoenberg wrote a remarkable and virtuoso trio and Hindemith composed a set of three. Sadly there are few examples so far of the medium in the 21st century.

My objective in composing for the string trio was to explore the potential of the trio as a medium for my own musical ideas and to apply two techniques I had recently developed in composing with algorithmic means. To this end, the study score and parts are published here with a supplementary score of the Lisp code annotated by Phil Legard. The work was realised in the Symbolic Composer application.

In my work for solo piano The White Light of Wonder I developed a way of creating sequences of 4-part chords through algorithmic means. The resultant harmony was often surprising and unusual, chords being separate and independent objects rather than formed from a distinct tonality into any kind of hierarchy. When writing To the Dark Unseen for a string ensemble of 10 players later I experimented with a method of organising when and where chords could sound using a beat / space technique in which the composition of the chords on every beat changed. In this short String Trio I have brought the two devices together.

There are three distinct sections in this Trio played without a break. Both the first and the third have extensive links of ornamentation between chords. The second section is a pulsating section of iterations of chords.

The harmonic sequence is identical in one and two, but in three the harmony is generated entirely from the starting chord of sections 1 and 2 to produce just eight chords that are then arranged in a series found in Franco Donatoni’s String Quartet The Heart’s Eye – 1 2 8 1 2 3 7 8 1 2 3 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 then subjected to a palindrome.

This String Trio is the first of a series of trio compositions to include Wind, Brass and Percussion ensembles. The music is dedicated to the violist and composer Simon Rowland-Jones.


String Trio  study score [pdf]
String Trio parts [zip]

Reference recording [mp3]

Annotated code [pdf]