String Quartet No. 3 was composed between May and September 1993 and is dedicated to the Takács Quartet. It was co-commissioned by the Takacs quartet, Great Performers of Lincoln Center, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Colorado, and the Ensemble Music Society of Indianapolis. It was first performed in November 1993 in Boulder, Colorado, by the Takacs Quartet.
The work was inspired by the memory of a Tibetan folk dance which I came across about 25 years ago when I was living in Qing Hai, the province on the border between China and Tibet. What I remember mostly about this particular dance is that it started with freely rhythmic folk singing and segued into a very rhythmic dance through which the singing continued. Although the structure of my quartet bears some resemblance to my memory of this dance, I did not attempt to recreate the dance scene. Rather, in many ways my faint memory served as a point of departure for the composition. The materials in this work develop towards the final Larghetto section, which is an elegy in memory of friends who have died in recent years.