Skin and Bone
Helen Mackinnon


A single movement work for String Quartet. 

Skin and Bone is a battle of mind and body, exploring the anxieties experienced through anorexia.  As determination and survival instinct face the irrationalities of the illness, the uphill struggle of an individual’s recovery plays out through the soundscape of the string quartet.

The work uses the extremities of harmonics, glissandi and other string techniques to create strained and, at times, haunting sounds.  The piece also uses elements of different modes with distinctive minor seconds to create a persistent bedrock of unsettling harmonies.

The work opens with dull and lifelessly, as voices build up and move chromatically in-and-around pedal notes. The listener is introduced early on to the driving unison rhythms that create a sense of rhythmic disturbance; these are used at various points to indicate a winding up or down of the mind and body as internal struggles ensue.

The main melody is introduced by the cello, expressively, and at times with real vigour, as the mind triumphs momentarily.  Tranquil harmonics are used extensively to create moments of calm but these are interrupted by irrational bursts of sound. As illness reigns, the piece ends with a rhythmic withering of a weakened mind and body, to finally, rest for another day.

Instrumentation Genre Ensemble (no conductor)
Tag quartet
Duration 11 minutes
Instrumentation Violin [2 players]; Cello [1 player]; Double bass [1 player]

Performances of this work

Date Venue Performer Link

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