Passion’s Continuum (2023) · 10.5 min (in four movements)

For String Quartet

Two violins, viola, cello

Commissioned by and written for the Cassatt String Quartet

Program Note

Passion’s Continuum is a work written by Anthony Paul De Ritis for the Cassatt String Quartet. 

In searching for an idea for how to start work on this quartet, I turned to a collection of poetry written by my father, Paul Anthony De Ritis (1922-2000), titled Chords of Dust. In a poem titled “The Room,” several references to sound can be found, as well as the phrase “Passion’s Continuum,” which I decided to title this collection of short movements. The bulk of this work was written during the winter break, December 2022, in Berkeley, CA. Special thanks to the University of California, Berkeley, and Professor Ed Campion, current Director of Berkeley’s Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, for allowing me to work there during this period.

This work is continuing to evolve; in its complete form, it will consist of 5 to 7 short movements, four of which have already been reviewed and rehearsed by the Cassatt String Quartet: (Muneko Otani and Jennifer Leshnower, violins; Rosemary Nelis, viola; Gwen Krosnick, cello).

“On Chapels of Doom” is based upon the rhythms and harmonies loosely derived from spectral analyses of chapel bells recorded in the Italian Abruzzo, the region where my father was born.

“The Tinkling of Orchestral Bells” imagines the string quartet as a kind of illusory glockenspiel or other collection of dreamed-up bell-like sounds that leverage muted natural and artificial harmonics interspersed with pizzicati open strings.  

“Our Conflicts Carom Close to Violin Drones” is derived from the spectra of various timpani gestures, struck, rolled, and transposed. I then imagined these sounds bouncing throughout the stone buildings and alleyways of medieval Siena, Italy, late at night; a city where I spent my summers between 2000 and 2006. These gestures then give way to a series of slow moving but energy filled violin drones, which create a kind of meditation before once again giving way to re-imagined timpani booms.

“On a Cello of Sorrow, Cymbals Will Harrow” references the acoustic envelope and spectra of several cymbals, and miscellaneous metallic devices, struck and scraped in various ways. These gestures serve as bookends to a sorrowful cello solo.

The remaining movements are still in progress, also inspired by my father’s poem, such as “Sweet Remembrance of the Just,” referenced from Tate and Brady’s New Version of the Psalms of David, 1696; specifically, Psalm 112:6.The premiere of Passion’s Continuum will take place during the The Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music in Vinalhaven, Maine, from July 25 – August 5, 2023


“The sweet remembrance of the just,

Shall flourish when he sleeps in dust.”

Tate and Brady, New Version of the Psalms of David: Psalm 112:6


The Room by Paul Anthony De Ritis


Come with the music friend,

Where notes are people,

And money in medleys pale,

Over the lean green steeples,


On chapels of doom.


O do come in the room and

Listen to the tympani’s boom,

Our conflicts will carom

Close to violin drones.


O come listen to the tinkling

Of orchestra bells wrinkling.


High, ho, the merry O

The world is very well.


Now passion’s continuum

In the glow of red gloaming,

Now bursting, now foaming,

As waves on endless seas roaming,

Roaming the rises, roaming the falls,

Ends without ending at all.


Do not leave the room

We get to the core

Of shrill rills screaming,

Come listen on a cushion,

Where percussion goes clashing

And crashing everlastingly on

Dead ear drums of time,

And they could be yours,

Or they could be mine.


Come fellow, into the room, and

Mellow on a cello of sorrow,

For the cymbals will harrow,

The soils of your spoils.


High, Ho, the merry O

The world is very well.


O do not leave the room,

There is more music,

Its sad notes are everlasting.

Yes, they will be passing, 

Ever on and on course,

Of course without any end,

Without any end at all

In the room.

View Score / Forthcoming