Performer’s Guide to “…but not simpler…”

A one-stop-shop for performing organizations interested in Tod Machover’s “…but not simpler”, a work for string quartet

“Mr. Machover’s new quartet, “… but not simpler …,” is a vigorous, exciting study in speediness, full of tremolando figures, racing lines and iridescent passages..”
– The New York Times

“Lovely themes emerge from seeming disorder and the narrative is a tantalising blend of tranquility and turmoil.” – Gramophone

“This extended work is full of complex and technically demanding passages for the strings but with some sublimely serene passages. This is a clearly difficult work to perform and challenging to listen to but with ample rewards.”
– Daniel Coombs in Audiophile Audition

LISTEN – Excerpts

To request a CD or MP3 of full tracks please email for a download code. The CD is available for purchase from Bridge Records and

…but not simpler…(opening)

…but not simpler…(excerpt)

THE SCORE: But Not Simpler (Boosey & Hawkes 2005)


“…but not simpler…” is scored for a traditional string quartet, with no electronics.


NOTES (From Booklet notes by Richard Dyer, former chief music critic for the Boston Globe.)

“This is a 15-minute string quartet designed to be played without electronics – the Yings requested a piece they could tour easily – but some performances have used electronics to help “spatialize’’ the music, that is, to create more separation between and among the instruments and highlighting the independence and interdependence of their individual voices.

Machover chose his title from a famous observation by Albert Einstein, “One should always make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.’’ It was Machover’s goal, he has written, to “represent the struggle to come to terms with the increasing complexity, fragmentation, and speed of today’s world, and of my life in particular.’’ So the piece, in his words, “dramatizes the search for calm and coherence in the midst of present-day complexity and diversity, and uses the togetherness or divergence of the four quartet players as a main source of tension and movement.’’

The quartet opens and closes with high indistinct sonorities. The opening marking is “swiftly mysterious”; by the end of the quartet the sonorities have become “gentle noise only, very pure and stable’’ that very slowly fades to nothing. “Calm of mind, all passion spent,’’ one might say, borrowing the words of Milton.

The main part of the quartet falls into three sections. The first is “diverse but not discrete’’; Machover marks the pensive second section “lyrical but cool,’’ and it grows into a section marked “swift and swelling.’’ After a moment of repose, the music arrives at the frantic finale, marked “as fast as possible’’- a favorite demand of Schumann’s.

Several strategies, or rather several ideas, take different forms in the different movements. The four players are almost never doing the same thing at the time – instead, each of them is going his own way (“diverse’’) although there are shifting patterns of alliances, and each individual way is somehow connected to the others, if only through opposition (“not discrete”). If someone is playing legato, someone else is simultaneously playing pizzicato; if someone’s bow is one position on the strings, the others take contrasting positions. A rocking gesture, and, even more, a frequent series of repeated notes, suggest some kind of treadmill to which there are various musical and human responses (anger, panic, resignation). But these same gestures also generate melody; something beautiful arises amid violence, but too often we are too frantically involved in our own concerns to hear what is really there; order is always threatened by chaos.”


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