Ants: Sextet for Strings

Programme Note

Ants: Sextet was commissioned by Christopher Marshall on request from violinist, Donald Armstrong for his group Amici, for inclusion in the ChristopherÕs Classics series, 2016, as well as concerts in other New Zealand venues during that year. The piece is in a single movement, and is based on the theme of that remarkable creature, the ant. Although there are hundreds of species of ant, this music is informed more by their generic characteristics: a fierce work ethic, a tremendous sense of the community before the individual, and their constant high level of activity. The piece also portrays some of the challenges in their lives, such as other invading ants, and anteaters. The music is continuous, but can be divided into the following sections:


A pentatonic theme is presented in the opening and recurs through the piece, contrasted by a more dynamic, scalic theme that develops over ostinato. The 'anteater' theme is lumbering and more harmonic, and picks up on the semitone motif from the scalic theme. This semitone, in turn, becomes the basis for the dramatic self-impaling idea - portraying the self-destruction of an ant, in order to protect its nest. The various melodic motifs are synthesized in the final section, which has a moto perpetua character. The quiet coda takes us back to the world of the opening.

This composition was supported by The University of Otago.

Dedicated to Donald Armstrong

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