A powerful creative alchemy can often occur on unfamiliar soil, where new traditions are confronted and intense sensory experiences are imbibed for the first time. For the itinerant musician, these encounters represent a vital source of inspiration and have long led to the creation of new music. Béla Bartók stands as a resolute example of this in the 20th century. Though he is regarded by many as the father of ethnomusicology, it is perhaps even more useful to us, as performers, to think of him as a quintessentially curious musician. Nearly one hundred years after his landmark second string quartet, a similar passion for seeking an inspirational catalyst outside of one‘s inherited musical identity has resulted in works by two New York-based composers: our good friend Ljova and our very own Colin Jacobsen. While Bartók tirelessly collected folk music across Eastern Europe, Turkey, and North Africa, his evocative sound-world was not achieved through a direct resetting of the music he experienced. His gift resided in the ability to seamlessly assimilate his travels with his own Hungarian identity. This approach is also true of Ljova, whose lifetime love of Roma music and travels to the village of Clejani in Romania led him to compose Culai - or Colin Jacobsen, whose longstanding friendship with Persian kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor and transformational trip to Iran led to the creation of Three Miniatures for String Quartet . In both cases, the music evokes a distinctive tradition while simultaneously bearing the strong personal imprint of the composer.
A Walking Fire is the title of a poem by the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi. In addition to serving as a metaphor for love, this title poetically encapsulates for us the process of wide-eyed exploration leading to passionate creation which is at the heart of this album. A desire to know the world more deeply has long fueled our journey as a string
quartet, and we hope to extend that joy of discovery with this recording.