I fa l'aire visible (And it turns the air visible) (2019-2020)
28 January 2021
Palau de la Música Catalana. Barcelona, Spain
The line of the poem that gives name to this work manifests a captivating natural phenomenon: in a quiet full moon night, especially intense light can brighten the space, so much so that the air becomes palpable, dense, visible, as if it possessed a corporeal form. The air is gifted with two opposite attributes: on the one hand, the darkness and silence that the night brings, and on the other, a visible form, light shafts.
The experience of the double condition of the air, together with the reading of the Taoist classic The Secret of the Golden Flower and the contemplation on the turning of the light around, led me to research on the natural harmonical intervals to achieve a sonority that is bright and dark at the same time. The high-precision tuning according to the harmonic series provides a pristine sonority that turns the light around, which makes visible what is invisible. That's why this work is performed in the dark, like a nocturne: to make the intangible just intonation turn visible.
The quartet asks for a microtonal scordatura on the second violin and the viola to suit the partial 7th and 11th, so that they can freely reverberate on the open strings and execute just harmonies with fluidity and easiness. This approach has been heavily influenced by the work of Marc Sabat, whom I thank for his generosity in allowing free access through the internet to his materials and research.
I fa l'aire visible (And it turns the air visible) is structured in ten movements: I. Aire (Air), II. Silenci (Silence), III. Estels (Stars), IV. Aire (Air), V. Silenci (Silence), VI. Lluna (Moon), VII. Estels (Stars), VIII. Aire (Air), IX. Lluna (Moon), X. Silenci (Silence), creating a symmetrical global form based on three elements. The element Air contains clumps of faint sounds condensed in light arches, on the edge of white sound, with dense activity. The element Silence is based on a circular stasis where just harmonies reverberate cyclically in a sea of silence. The elements Moon and Stars feature a melodic line based on the purity of just intervals.
For the creation of this work, I have enjoyed the valuable support and enthusiasm of the Quartet Gerhard, with whom I have periodically met to test passages, scordatura, especially difficult microtonal tuning that asks for surgical precision and an extremely sharp hearing. The result of this collaboration has resulted in a piece of music that explores lands of meticulous detail, with a delicate and complex expression. I wouldn't have been able to write this music without the enthusiasm and the smiles of the four members of the Quartet Gerhard, whom I thank from the bottom of my heart for their lively effort, their proximity, and the love towards the creative process of this work.
I fa l'aire visible is scheduled for premiere in the chamber music season of the Palau de la Música Catalana during the 2020-2021 season by the Quartet Gerhard, to whom the work is dedicated with a visible smile.
Ramon Humet. Vilanova d'Escornalbou. June 2020
String quartet and electronics
14 November 2019
L'Auditori. Barcelona, Spain
Sampler Series. L'Auditori
The classical string quartet formation of two violins, viola and cello, while enjoying an extensive and solid repertoire, is characterised by a lack of equilibrium in terms of sound. The doubling of the violin, an eminently high-pitched instrument, in the absence of a really deep instrument (for while the cello dominates the central register, often being compared to the human voice, it does not have the depth of a double bass or a bass clarinet) tilts the resulting sound into the upper register in a surprising way not found with the other classical formations of piano trio, wind quintet or symphonic orchestra.
Embarking on a new work for string quartet, I found myself faced with the need to take the following decision: either to rebalance the overall sound by reinforcing the lower register or to extend the higher register, emphasising the instrumental possibilities in this upper register. The second option struck me as the most interesting: the use of intensive or extensive harmonics, of bow strokes very close to the bridge, extremely high notes, and so on. Technical resources that multiply the string quartet’s expressivity: the high register close to the limits of hearing.
Extreme limits are fertile zones in which new kinds of sounds appear, new perceptive horizons. The upper auditory extreme connects with white noise. I was interested in exploring the point at which the high note is surrounded by the dominant presence of scratched strings; a thin, high-frequency thread surrounded by a sea of sound. I also explored the transition into silence by means of different levels of bow pressure, as well as by using bows without rosin. The work is characterised, particularly, by the technique of using varying degrees of light bow pressure while playing very fast.
Fragility implies awareness of the horizon of non-existence. Just as in a wood at evening when certain colours, sounds and smells manifest themselves, the threshold between sound and silence transforms the clarity of a particular timbre into an ambiguous, richly-nuanced situation. Sound and noise are confused, and a sounded silence in the form of very light bowing (flautando) comes to the fore.
I decided to use electronics to produce a faint sound, at the threshold of auditory discrimination. What are we listening to, instruments or electronics? The fragility of the electronics in the form of background sounds that are submerged in the amplified sounds of the instruments gives a deep, discreet dimension to the overall sound of the quartet.
Fràgil (Fragile) is constructed in seven movements: I. Fràgil (Fragile), II. Silenci (Silence), III. Flor (Flower), IV. Fràgil (Fragile), V. Flor (Flower), VI. Silenci (Silence), VII. Fràgil (Fragile), generating a symmetrical, overall form based on three elements. The element “Fragile” is based on joint accentuated attacks that generate harmonic resonances, like those of small glass bells. “Silence” uses the non-rosined bow to give colour to the sounded silence. The element “Flower” evokes a destabilising melodic motif which gives way to a small destructive catastrophe, the point of departure for a new cycle.
Fràgil (Fragile) has been commissioned by l’Auditori, and will be premiered in the Sampler Series by the Armida Quartet during the 2019-2020 season. The work is dedicated in gratitude to the violinist, my friend Josep Maria Ferrando. With great patience, he helped me understand the way to play the violin with only light pressure; and he suggested we try using a bow without rosin in order to achieve a fainter, more fragile sound.
Petites catàstrofes (Small Disasters) (2010)
19 October 2010
Festival Ritmo Vital. Madrid, Spain
Pètals (Petals) (2009)
Violin, cello and piano
Trio Kandinsky with the support of the Consell Nacional de la Cultura i de les Arts, Generalitat de Catalunya
11 December 2009
Munetsugu Hall. Nagoya, Japan
CD Neu Records NEU-MCH-CD002. London Sinfonietta. Nicholas Collon, conductor
El jardí de Kinko (Kinko's Garden) (2008)
Cello and piano
Festival Nous Sons
25 March 2009
Oriol Aymat, cello. Sílvia Vidal, piano
Festival Nous Sons. Barcelona, Spain
CD Verso. David Apellániz, cello. Alberto Rosado, piano
Quatre jardins zen (Four Zen Gardens) (2008)
Neopercusión with financial support from the Ministerio de Cultura, Spain
4 November 2008
Museu Guggenheim. Bilbao, Spain
CD Neu Records NEU-MCH-CD002. London Sinfonietta. Nicholas Collon, conductor
Mantra II (2002)
14 March 2003
Espai de Teatre i Dansa. Barcelona, Spain
Percussions de Barcelona
CD Anacrusi AC030. Percussions de Barcelona