Let’s cut right to the chase: the addiction Giel Vleggaar refers to in the title of his first string quartet, U-Turn Addiction, is an obsession with his own starting point, a short chord progression. The fixation starts there: in the beginning, the composer helps his material get going. Half-way, he begins to wonder if he might have taken a different exit. There seems to be but one solution: turn around, go back and take the trip all over. Again. And again, until all the possible roads have been explored to satisfaction.
This synopsis could have also started differently. For example, by drawing a parallel with Groundhog Day, a movie in which Bill Murray not only plays a reporter stuck in an sleepy American town during the annual spring festival, but also seems captured in a strange wrinkle in time. Every morning his alarm clock wakes him up in a hotel room to the news that it is Groundhog day again. This strange time warp offers the story unusual possibilies. The curse is lifted only when Murray finally learns something.
Same here: in U-Turn Addiction, the listener compulsively walks the same road, based on the aforementioned cadence (a handful of sweetly sounding chords), three times only to be led to an identical conclusion. But then also different. U-Turn Addiction is certainly a set of string quartet variations in the best tradition of the genre. But also different, since we get the feeling that Vleggaar has a different insight on tradition. He uses music history from Beethoven to Prince like a supermarket in which he shops for the ingredients he needs. Sometimes a music of quotations comes out, such as in his latest orchestral work, Dead as Disco. In U-Turn Addiction, however, only groovy rhythms, bluesy melodies and colourful harmonies point to Vleggaar’s penchant for the vernacular, or musical slang.
In U-Turn Addiction, the composer plays with the string quartet as a homogenous ensemble, playing the intimacy of chamber music off against orchestral qualities, with polyrhythm, with archaic harmonies set against complex pitch sets, with tonality coloured by glissandi and occasionally left hanging on some riff or note. Let’s cut right to the chase: the addiction Giel Vleggaar refers to in the title of his first string quartet, U-Turn Addiction, is an obsession with his own starting point, a short chord progression (etc. etc. etc.).