for string Quartet and recording

Written: 2016
Duration: ca. 11'
Instrumentation: string quintet and recording
World Premiere: Euclid Quartet, Rocky Ridge Music Center, July 5, 2015.
PublisherBill Holab Music

View ScoreBuy Sheet Music
Note: versions for string orchestra and string quintet also available.


I See You is inspired by a week I spent at my father's side in a hospital. Having never spent much time in hospitals, I was unaccustomed to hearing the myriad of sounds, particularly in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where my father lay incapacitated, in critical condition. It was incredibly sad: I could see him, but because he was so sedated, he was barely aware I was even in the room with him. Despite this, there was something strangely soothing and almost musical about the constant pattern of beeps and noises emanating from the machines. To pass the time, I would imagine an orchestra playing, with the litany of noises as accompaniment.

I See You consists of three connected sections. The first section entitled Tranquillo is calm and soothing, almost like a lullaby, with long melodic lines. The second, entitled Sturn und drang (“storm and stress”) is more rhythmic and stressful, incorporating a cacophony of ICU sounds. The final section, entitled Return, is more like the first, perhaps a bit darker, but with rays of optimism toward the end. Throughout the entire work, I incorporate sounds one might hear in an ICU, manipulated and mixed with recordings of heartbeats, breathing and the sounds of children playing. The piece ends with the overlapping patterns of my own heartbeat, my father’s heartbeat, and my son’s heartbeat, and even my son's heartbeat when he was in my wife's womb, creating an intimate, multi-generational, rhythmic tapestry.

Press Quotes

so rich, so touching… The end was Robert Paterson’s most moving quintet I See You [version for string quintet] played by the SYBARITE5 quintet… Throughout, the string music is rich and tender, sometimes angry, always under the total control of this most sensitive and creative composer.
— Harry Rollick, ConcertoNet.com
In spite of the work’s somber genesis, Paterson’s use of American flavored motives during the opening and concluding sections, coupled with the brisk tempo of the middle section, create an upbeat (no pun intended) musical atmosphere. His inventive but sparing use of electronics adds to the lush texture of the string quintet. The concluding heartbeats fade into silence.
— Mike Telin, ClevelandClassical.com
The concert ended with Mr. Paterson’s own I See You, inspired by the composer’s own visit to his father in an Intensive Care Unit. For this piece, Mr. Paterson sampled hospital chatter, the hissing rush of a ventilator, the pulse of an electrocardiogram and heartbeats of himself and his own child. Using these samples as an electronic pulse, the musicians sallied forth, spinning textured webs of sound over the steady rhythm. A rapid central section echoed the emergency of an EKG failure, as the beeps became frantic, going to flatline until order was restored. The work ended quietly, with the heartbeat samples fading away to silence but never ceasing.
— Paul J. Pelkonen, SuperCondcuctor