Three Dementians for String Quartet

On February 22, 2019, Three Dementians for String Quartet will premiere at Festivale 50. The performance, by the Isis String Quartet, is funded by a generous grant from Pinellas Community Foundation in conjunction with Creative Pinellas. (Act II Grant) The Isis String Quartet will perform the piece in the Auditorium at Creative Pinellas Headquarters, at 11211 Walsingham Rd, Clearwater, FL. The performance will be open to the public. Tickets are available through Creative Pinellas.

The Act II Grant was offered to artists 60 years of age and older. Artists selected were asked to create a project that dealt with the topic of Aging.

My project, Three Dementians for String Quartet, is programmatic in nature, consisting of three movements with each successive movement representing a more advanced stage of Dementia. The piece employs theatrical elements which support the underlying theme and bring the message home to the audience with strong, metaphorical gestures.

Musically, the piece utilizes Jazz and Rock idioms in a classical context. The first movement is light-hearted in nature, drawing upon the swinging rhythms of Jazz to depict the humorous precursors of Dementia: the so-called “Senior Moments.” The second movement is constructed from a more rigid rock beat accompanying a march towards, but not yet reaching, incoherence.

The third movement was the most difficult to compose. To be true to the programmatic element of the piece, the progressive nature of Dementia made it difficult to justify an upbeat, grand finale and big finish. And yet, music which is incoherent cannot effectively punctuate a 25-minute piece of music.

The metaphorical theatrical devices established during the first two movements are used in unexpected ways to present a retrospective viewpoint, a musical trip down Memory Lane, which I believe not only supports the programmatic theme of the piece, but also provides a satisfying ending.

Both my parents suffered from age-related Dementia, which is not uncommon for people over 90. My mother, in particular, was afflicted to the extent that in her final year, she refused to even speak to me. She was convinced I was out to harm her, and asked me to never call her again.

I would not be a musician if it weren’t for the staunch support of my parents. Beyond purchasing a piano and paying for piano lessons when money was scarce, they were always behind me 100% and were proud of my achievements. Whereas it was painful to be rebuked and shunned by my own mother, I know that she was simply confused, and unable to understand what was going on around her.

I have dedicated Three Dementians for String Quartet to her and my father, Almeda and Frank Sivak.