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Quartet No. 3 (2011)

Quartet No. 3 for string quartet and live electronics written for the third issue of CNCPTN e-zine.

It is impossible to listen with someone else’s ears and reference’s.  This is why I see my music as a blank canvas for people to project upon and my programme notes are short and noncommittal. This does not mean that there is no concept behind the work it just means that the work should stand on its own without prior knowledge of the concept. As this is not a programme note I am compelled to tell you the concept but please before you read on, listen. Listen to the piece and make up your own mind before I tell you mine.

All my music begins with an idea be it another piece, a note or a sound. In Quartet No. 3 it is the genre of glitch music. There is something fascinating to me about glitch music. Possibly because it was the era of the portable CD player when I began to get into music. The personal CD player I had did not have any anti-skip mechanism meaning it was almost impossible to walk and listen without the occasional glitch. With a piece of music that I knew well the silence enforced on the music by a skip created a sense of tension and annoyance until the music continued. These experiences disappeared through mini-disc players to mp3 players and so had slipped completely from my mind until I came across the music of Murcof. He takes predictable classical gestures, such as a string crescendo and diminuendo, and throws a glitch into the gesture. This upsets your subconscious prediction and creates a sense of tension. Admittedly all music works like this, playing with the evolutionary reward and punishment mechanism in your brain, but the overt nature of the effect of the glitch seems very attractive.

This was the starting point for Quartet No. 3 and it is throughout the piece in the use of delays, sample and reverse and comb filtering to try to emulate the distinctive sound of a CD skipping. This naturally effected the composed material where, for example, the whole middle section is a written out accelerando as if someone is winding up a gramophone to the required speed but somehow goes too fast.

This was my concept for Quartet No. 3 but it was only important in the writing of the piece not the listening. Listen with your own ears and your own references to make up your own mind.

Quartet No. 3 was premiered and recorded by The Gildas Quartet and Edit-Point on the 23rd of November in Glasgow City Halls Recital Room.

A recording of the piece is available on my debut album Dichroic Light.


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