A Bonsai Garden, Set VII (2013) by Brian R. Banks
for violin, viola, and cello
World premiere

In 2008, I began writing a series of chamber pieces that I have titled collectively A Bonsai Garden. Yet, what began as an exploration of the miniature — as the word "bonsai" implies — came to reflect other characteristics in the compositional process as well. I am interested in graphic novels, comic art, and manga; and am particularly interested in the way these genres present ideas that are separated by frames — and how the reader interprets the separations and juxtaposed contrasts of a sequence of panels. The "gutter" — the space between the panels — has been an important part of my thinking in my Bonsai Garden sets. I wanted to push the limits of formal coherence with a great deal of internal variety, since I wanted this music to reflect a portion of our polyglot musical world and my own broad musical taste (musically speaking, I am an omnivore!).

From the beginning, I incorporated a process of making rough, unordered sketches of the movements and putting them together in a final, fixed order only after considering several alternative combinations. With this, my inclination has been to maximize the sense of contrast between movements. In this particular set of twelve miniatures for string trio, though, the contrast between abstract elements and vernacular or popular discourses can be found internally in some movements as well as between the movements themselves.

The work is dedicated to my wife Luisa.

— B.R.B.    

[from program for May 15, 2023 concert]