Studie III for solo cello & electronics (2015)

“Studie III” is a composition once again for solo cello and for electronics. It was written a very short period after “Studie II” in the summer of 2015 and it is a continuation of my evolution in writing more virtuosic pieces for a specific instrument. The conceptual aspect of this piece was to look closely at the small pitch discrepancies between notes during several glissandi. Throughout the piece there are often several glissandi at the same time (mostly electronic but sometimes electronic against acoustic) and what interests me is what is between every note, how clusters are formed. Some of the glissandi are also slowed down, so the aspect of microsounds (as defined by Curtis Roads) also comes into play, although on a much smaller scale than in “Studie I”.

Ligeti has used a similar concept in “Atmosphères” (1961) as well as Penderecki in his “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” (1960). However, I had actually gotten the idea from an analysis of Saariaho’s “Nymphéas” (1987). At the start of the piece which is focused on the tone A, the inner parts start to play D# which forms a symmetrical tritone above and bellow the initial A. This sparked my interest in how it would sound with glissandi shifting from one tone, to two tones a tritone apart from the first one, and then back again.

The writing is even more virtuosic than in “Studie II”, and the presence of extended techniques such as bow overpressure once again plays a role. The overpressure is used here mostly to accentuate the narrative of the first half of the piece, and it also plays in into the aspect of tonal sounds against noise. At what point do the glissandi and bowing sounds stop being tonal and are pure noise? What is between what some would consider noise and tonal sounds is what was interesting to me during the composition of the piece.

During the writing of the piece I had also thought of including a delay but I was unsure of how well it would fit. However, during a slight re-writing in early 2016 before recordings and rehearsals, I thought that the spectral delay I had designed for “Studie II” could be a starting point, modifying it slightly and adding a traditional delay system with feedback and crosstalk between two channels.

The glissandi which are played back electronically are not meant to sound as an acoustic cello would. The electronics here are meant to sound different than the cello. However, because of the start of the piece (in a concert situation at least), the audience can clearly see the gesture of the glissando which will then be repeated in several different ways during the piece, allowing them to make a connection between what was played and what is heard throughout the piece. The glissandi part sound mostly like a backdrop (as defined in but the delay and reverb function mainly as a possible extension or accentuation.

MaxMSP schematics

Recorded with Astri Hoffmann-Tollaas at NTNU in Spring 2016. Recorded, edited, mixed and mastered by Mathieu Lacroix.




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