Layers of Life is a 21st century composition written for the string quartet by Paul Barnes. It is in effect a commemoration of any or all lives that fulfill some aspects of their potential, whether small or large, whether noticed or hidden.
The numerical number “4” is embedded deeply into Layers of Life: As a quartet the composition naturally consists of 4 parts for 4 players and their 4 instruments with 4 strings, but there are additional fours, derived from the 4 movements which represent 4 life stages of physical development (1st movement), mental/emotional development (2nd movement), maturity (3rd movement) and fulfillment/celebration (4th movement). Also, Layers of Life uniquely uses aspects of the 4 well-known stylistic periods of music (Baroque, Classic, Romantic, Modern) to illustrate the passage of time through the four stages.
The music itself is a merger of many inspirational themes experienced by the composer over a decade (2006-2015), creating a celebration of life from cradle to grave. The story ends with a sequence in which the subject enters a dreamy phase which becomes strongly agitated when its status, a life finale, is realised. However the dream then reforms into a vision of the subject’s whole life flashing quickly past, as represented by the distorted re-appearance of several themes from the earlier movements, before slipping into a peaceful finale.
The work ends on an ambiguous harmony, thereby inviting interpretation concerning the nature of the finish.