music for four resonators, 2016

music composition commissioned for the Kronos Quartet
duration 10’ - 15’

This work reflects the composer’s use of her practice to penetrate intangible aspects of nature and her need to understand why and how music emerged out of nature through humankind. Thus, the piece explores the very fundamental notion that all physical bodies vibrate, acknowledging that the traits and behaviors of those natural vibrations are linked to the development of music, and have greatly determined how music has been composed throughout all geographies and historical periods.

Using a variety of electronic devices and transducers, a ‘playing’ technique was developed to draw out the natural vibrations inside the string quartet instruments (resonators), allowing their fundamental resonance modes and properties to be heard and explored. Instead of stimulating the strings with bows and pizzicatos, the instruments are ‘played’ by microphones, most of the time without even being touched. This way, the pureness of the resonators intrinsic vibrations is captured and made the central sonic material of the work.

The experiments run for the composition revealed that the instruments possess a ‘singing quality,’ as their most predominant frequencies (tones) can be arranged into melodic structures, evoking scales and modes extensively used by different cultural traditions. In addition, when the instruments get highly excited, dense textures characterized by beatings, multiphonics and spectral sonorities, akin the ones in contemporary western music, can be heard. These two natural responses, melodic and textural, have dictated the materials and construction of the piece.

Even though all string instruments are built based on shared fundamental principles, each one has its own resonance properties, producing a unique array of tones when excited. The particular tone production of each instrument and the inevitable variations of their response due to environmental conditions, made it impossible to create a determinate composition; performers improvise based on precise guidelines and instructions provided by the composer.


Special thanks: Maria Elisa Ayerbe, technical assistance.