01.08.2021 FLETCH Arditti Quartet with works by Tansy Davies, Milica Djordjević, Karola Obermüller, Hilda Paredes and Rebecca Saunders
KAROLA OBERMÜLLER: xs
xs for string quartet was composed over the span of 14 years. Seven years after the first movement, the second movement came into being, and seven years after that, the third movement was finished. xs is an artistic research into excess within extremely confined space and the resultant (physical) pressure. That pressure produces energy which reacts to the constant change of (imaginary physical) space and thus makes the (musical) material expand and compress as it flows. It is music of and about kinetic motion. But the source of this energy, and its purpose(s), its needs and desires, remain hidden, looming in the shadows, with unseen hands occasionally making themselves known as they change the course of the musical form. The pressure manifests itself in compact rhythms, in the rebounding (recoiling, perhaps) action of the bow on a string instrument when struck hard against the strings, and in pizzicati that spurt and splinter. The gestures of xs compress and expand from within, the tight intervals between instruments mounting a density that comprises a sense of body. The interior pressures create a corporeality.
MILICA DJORDJEVIĆ: THE DEATH OF THE STAR-KNOWER – PETRIFIED ECHOES OF AN EPITAPH IN A KICKED CRSTYAL OF TIME I & II
Djordjević’s string quartet The Death of the Star-Knower – petrified echoes of an epitaph in a kicked crystal of time I&II (2008/09), a diptych commissioned by the Arditti Quartet, displays this quality of flowing motion on every level and in every dimension: timbre, pitch, rhythm. Scarcely a note remains rooted to a particular place: either the pitches are destabilised by brief glissandos or wide vibrato, or the note loses substance as airy noise-like flutterings corrode its sonority like acid. Though expressly averse to smorgasbords of unorthodox performance techniques, Djordjević employs such techniques en masse in her music. Usually they crop up as transitional stages within larger periods: for example, she allows the bows of the string instruments to wander to and fro between fingerboard and bridge on a single note, or changes the bow pressure in an undulating motion, thereby releasing a kaleidoscope of colours and timbres on the same note. The only constant is her reliably steady flow of energy, like the electric current that keeps a machine running. In one instruction, for instance, she tells the performer to play the entire piece with great tension and nervousness
Here, too, new episodes emerge time and again in accordance with the ‘crash and reboot’ system. Usually these episodes involve only one or two short motifs, from which Djordjević extracts veritable universes, so that the striking one-note fantasy on E at the end of the piece is well-nigh bursting with vitality. Exactly how she arrives at this point of maximum focus, despite her highly contrasting and seemingly disparate initial material, is difficult
to explain. But precisely this is her goal: to put her listeners in contact with the subjectivity and mobility of their perception. The secret lies in the subtlety of her constant processes of modification. For example, sharp changes of rhythm are drawn out over lengthy periods of time. It thus happens, after a long series of minimal rhythmic shifts, that we suddenly find ourselves in a completely different time frame. In this way Djordjević accomplishes her mission: to make time, in all its elasticity, a product of feeling.
from: Where basses bark and stars think – The music of Milica Djordjević
TANSY DAVIES: NIGHTINGALES: ULTRA-DEEP FIELD
I began composing this work: my first string quartet, in early 2020, while living in the USA – in Bloomington, Indiana – where I was teaching. There,
I created the basic material for the piece, without knowing anything about the shape or the journey it would later take. I made rhythm patterns and pitch systems based entirely on the names and birth dates of each member of the Arditti quartet.
My time in Bloomington was cut short by lockdown and I made the quick decision to return to the UK. Somehow I felt a surge of energy being back home, and threw myself into full-speed composing, while at the same time continuing with my heavy US teaching load – by this point, online.
Spring in rural Kent, felt intense: hyperreal even. Everything seemed heightened: the colours, the air, the quiet, the birdsong… The vital nature all around became an addiction.
I continued to work with the patterns I had made; playing with them and experimenting with endless combinations and ways to bring them to life.
I needed my material to begin to lead the way somehow – so I could start to ‘collaborate’ with it – in the search for meaning, feeling and some kind of life-force.
During that period I watched a documentary about the Hubble Deep Field images. These magical and beautiful visions effectively allow us to view time as it moves towards us from the beginnings of the universe. I took long walks through woodlands and fields, listening intently to birdsong that felt urgent, as if the volume had been turned up. Listening through – and into – the depth of layers of birdsong, brought to mind the Hubble images and it became clear to me that the quartet should embrace these two telescopic and lateral perspectives; like the merging of deep time and of song.
I became aware of Nightingales; a bird whose song seems to contain its own particularly vivid, in-built acoustic (at least that’s how I heard it). Suddenly I couldn’t ‘unhear’ the Nightingales, they were everywhere! One night, it seemed there were four surrounding me; from the north, south, east and west…
Perhaps they assisted me in singing the quartet into life. At the very least their constant presence felt comforting and certainly helped to confirm my decisions. Like a blessing, the Nightingales’ song helped me make the leap from early patterns into something that felt alive – music!
Composing this work, at times, felt like dancing through multi-dimensional fields of sound-space… There are dances woven in throughout and a hint of Bluegrass at the end.
HILDA PAREDES: HACIA UNA BITÁCORA CAPILAR
In 2014, the Arditti Quartet celebrated their 40th anniversary and as part of the occasion, several new works were written by composers who had been closely associated with them during this time. This short quartet was written to be part of the event that took place at the Wittener Musiktage in 2014 and it is a shorter version of Bit cora capilar my third quartet which I also wrote for them for their anniversary concerts in London. Both pieces share the same material but Hacia una bit cora capilar is more concise and omits some sections. Hilda Paredes
Paredes has written several works for the Arditti Quartet, including three quartets, beginning with Uy u T’an (Listen how they talk, 1998) and Cuerdas del destino (Strings of destiny, 2007/08). Bit cora capilar follows on from the latter as a single sweep through several kinds of music, a journey that visits different musical territories, their differences provoking crisis and unexpected resolution.
This quartet differs from its predecessors, however, in its intimacy. A seven-note cell (B-A-D-A-D-Bflat-E) that encodes composer Hilda Paredes’s and husband Irvine Arditti’s names runs through the work. As Arditti’s wife, Paredes has witnessed the quartet’s activity over the last two decades at close quarters and this work is partly a record of that, a “bit cora” being a ship’s log. Moreover, her personal relationship makes this ‘capillary log’, recorded in the finest threads of her bloodstream.
based on a text by Paul Griffiths
REBECCA SAUNDERS: FLETCH
Fletch /flɛtʃ/ n. (archery);
the feather placed on the arrow, providing the arrow with the capacity of flight;
the feathered vane towards the back of the arrow, used to stabilise during flight.
ME f. OF flech(i)er f. fleche arrow. OE -flycge, as in unflycge unfledged;
Old High German flucki able to fly.
Fletch is a furious ongoing exploration of a specific physical gesture and fragment of sound. In its purest form, this elemental sonic gesture is a flowing up-bow sul pont double-harmonic trill, often with a fast glissando, crescendo-ing rapidly out of nothing to fortissimo.
This fragment of sound is arresting, immediate and present, but also inherently unstable and unpredictable.
The bow reveals again and again the fast quasi-mechanical manic trilling sound, which lies hidden beneath the surface of silence.
Surface, weight and feel are part of the reality of musical performance: the weight of the bow on the string; the differentiation of touch of the left-hand finger on the string…
Feeling the weight of sound is critical – the essential materiality of sound, the grit and noise of an instrument, tracing the essence of fragments of colour, exploring the physical gesture which creates a trace of sound. Rebecca Saunders