Bagatellen

“Bagatellen” for String Quartet (2015) are nine small explorations of found musical objects – unspectacular little gestures, chord progression, melodic-harmonic figures, or cadences. They share an assertion of “togetherness”: four players creating meaning for a brief moment. The nine movements study these attempts of homogeneity, unity, and fleeting harmony – they amplify them, put them in different perspectives, and test their limits and the space they leave for an individual autonomous voice.

At the boundaries of these small gestures of musical meaning lingers the constant presence of “Rauschen”, though, of white noise – an ambivalent outside that is on the one hand seductive in its quiet beauty, and on the other hand threatening as it seems to swallow all individual expression.

 

Air

“Air” for Violin Solo (2018) is a light piece – light as the substance to which its title refers. It follows a fascination with the violin’s ability to project an almost limitless pitch space on its four short strings, delineating ever expanding and receding harmonies. As tonal as those harmonies appear, it is a tonality of constant drift as the melodies in the piece never consolidate into definite tonal cadences.

The musical category of sound comes increasingly to the foreground in “Air,” though: its figures seem to inhabit a strange nowhere-land between the tonal harmonies and the sound-world of the instrument itself: the white noise of the bow on dampened strings, or the pitch relations between those open strings and their overtones – found harmonic structures that permeate almost every melody in “Air”.

 

Noema

Etude for two prepared pianos (2004)

The title of the pieces is borrowed from the field of baroque rhetoric figures. It describes the moment in polyphonic vocal music at which all voices unite in homophony to highlight the essential thought of a text – it’s noema. The development of this rhetoric figure as well as that of many others follows a complex path through the history of Western Music from its origins in baroque vocal music to the musical logos and jingles of late capitalism.

The starting material for the piece is taken from 19th century piano etudes – mainly the commanding (and often endlessly repeated) reiterations of chords in fortissimo: demonstrations of power over sound through the newly engineered grand piano, a celebration of domesticated nature. A few prepared low strings result in sounds that don’t fit in, though. Pitches that lie between the piano’s 87 chromatic intervals; timbres that are sticking out. They begin to open up the quotations from 19th-century etudes, and they eventually lead to a different “noema”, one that is no longer defined by conformity and power, but by a multiplicity of sounds, by strange harmonies and timbres that resist systemization, and by the unique temporality of the instrument’s strings and their vibrations.

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