At the heart of this collection of pieces is memory: memories of love in all its varying forms, at times romantic and passionate and at times fraternal and inspirational.


The first work, entitled simply String Quartet No. 8, offers three movements that engage different states of mediation, at once in conflict and then serene. Dedicated to the memory of McKinley’s mentor David Stock, leader of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the string quartet moves through an angst-ridden first movement filled with jarring dissonances and persistent repetition, before transitioning into the more subdued nocturne. The rondo offers the most hints of nostalgia, referring briefly to older forms in a fragmented way.


A Letter to Say I Love You and Goodbye offers the most melancholic atmosphere of the collection, mirroring the simultaneously loving and despairing sentiment of the title. The cello offers the most wistful and flowing melodic line, capturing at times the elation and even drama of love, while the stagnant and declamatory piano provides the foundation, indicating that something may be amiss. The work closes with a fading-out “goodbye” that is filled with both release and sadness.


The piano trio The Shadow Dancer is another contemplation on memory, conveying a love that resonances and travels. The work moves through various vignettes and atmospheres, weaving into several shadows that occur between night and day or through dreamlike states. McKinley captures each landscape poignantly while the dancer, represented predominantly in the strings, dances through each movement. Of particular importance is the fifth movement, where the theme becomes the focal point in a landscape of love and memory, providing the listener with not just a sense of nostalgia but also grace and delicacy through the fluidity of the soaring melodic lines.


--Dr. Jacky Avila

Associate Professor of Musicology, University of Tennessee Knoxville









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