In his String Quartet No. 4
, McKinley achieves a synthesis between a high-modernist aesthetic and jazz influenced rhythms and harmonies. The viola’s subtle beginning of the quartet centers the listener on the pitch G. After the cello quietly introduces a G-Major pentatonic collection, the violins introduce the melody in double octaves.
The melody isn’t exclusively pentatonic, although it remains centered around the initial 5 pitches introduced by the cello. The doubled melody begins with an upward gesture, which permeates the remainder of the movement. The slow and steady cello and viola pairing establish a solid foundation, enabling the violins to soar over top. The violin pairing eventually breaks down, with only one violin playing on the initial melodic gesture. A sudden tutti
interruption of blocked chords breaks the opening sentiments of the movement.