Martin Arnold: Aberrare

Bozzini Quartet / Martin Arnold

Cover art: Dominique Lämmli

Prix Opus 2011-12: Disque de l’année — Finaliste

I think of my fundamental activity as a musician as listening, especially to music. And any music I might take part in making flows out from listening. So what can I say about my compositional practice listening to the music on this CD? It’s clear that I care about melody. I love melody: one on its own or two or more combined in any imaginable manner-monody, homophony, polyphony and heterophony. I love melody; but I’m not concerned with themes, subjects (first or second), motifs (especially of the leit variety), or phrases (at least when they display their Greek root-phrazein: "to tell, express, declare"). I am not at all interested in tracing narrative onto the movement of music and so I’m not interested in melodies that assert themselves as characters that develop. I care about continuation, not progression. I love music that continues; but, as my listening imagination moves through this continuum, it’s the detail that engages me, the specificity of how the melody meanders within the perpetual, continuing present; present because I’m not concerned with where things are going to go, what they’re going to become. And melody here isn’t just a succession of pitches; it’s texture-intentional and indeterminate-folding and unfolding. But I don’t want the detail to be declared-no quotation marks around anything, no underlining; I want to stumble on it on my sonic dérive. I think my work openly evinces the influence of other music I listen to in this way: various traditional folk musics, late 14th century polyphony (the ars subtilior; the subtle art); pre-Elizabethan consort music. But I listen to a lot of slow Mahler this way as well (and I hear a lot of Mahler subtilior in Liquidambars). I also hear the music on this CD as dance music. Dancing is one of my favourite forms of co-creative listening and fortunately I don’t need to compose most of the dance music that powerfully moves me-it’s well taken care of by others. But my body does move to this music; it staggers and slips and lightly slews (though only rarely hops) and sometimes waltzes. Dancing is also a form of listening that doesn’t need to embrace the concept of understanding. In response to my music Wandelweiser composer/theorist Antoine Beuger sent me a link to Walter de Maria’s essay Meaningless Work. There’s a productive connection there so I’ll pass it on to you: "Whether the meaningless work, as an art form, is meaningless, in the ordinary sense of that term, is of course up to the individual." In 1987 visual artist Barbara Kruger said: "How can we encourage work that is not exemplary but merely different?" That encouraged me. And in eschewing the exemplary I listen for little differences, subtle differences, the kind of difference I hope you find here.

Martin Arnold


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  • Label: Collection QB
  • CQB 1112
  • 2011
  • UCC 771028371228
  • Total duration: 63:52
  • 125 mm × 125 mm × 6 mm
  • 40 g

On the web

In the press


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 94, December 1, 2012
Le travail des quatre musiciens du Quatuor, en variant notamment la sonorité et les approches de leurs instruments respectifs, apporte les couleurs nécessaires à la transcription de ces partitions entre monophonie et polyphonie.


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 840, July 16, 2012

Bozzini Quartet is a very special quartet. They have built up a varied and extensive repertoire. This time, with À chacun sa miniature the Bozzini Quartet makes a very generous gesture. On this double cd they present works from 31 young Canadian composers. Considering the amount of participating composers, almost a catalogue of what is going on in Canada. A bit too much also, because of the great number of new works. But a good opportunity to pick up what is going on in Canada. Their other new release Aberrare failed to fascinate me. This did not change after repeated listening, so this one was not meant for my ears. What kind of piece is it? Composer Martin Arnold is interested in continuation of music, but not along narrative lines. The music is not moving towards some goal, but it is more a process of unfolding, as the composer explains. In a way it is also dance music, what the composer concerns. But I felt it difficult to feel the same inspiration. Arnold is a Toronto-based composer and performer who had Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Louis Andriessen, and others as his teachers.

Bozzini Quartet is a very special quartet. They have built up a varied and extensive repertoire.


Luc Bouquet, Le son du grisli, February 25, 2012

Après avoir interprété Cage, Malcolm Goldstein et quelques autres, le Quatuor Bozzini (Charles-Edouard Marchand: violon, Clemens Merkel: violon, Stéphanie et Isabelle Bozzini: violon alto et violoncelle) s’intéresse aux œuvres de Martin Arnold, compositeur contemporain installé à Toronto.

Dans ces quatre œuvres, quelques constantes: continuité et étirements-déplacements de la mélodie, silences, réminiscence de musique ancienne, unissons, variantes des hauteurs et refus de la bride, du motif, de la phrase. Soit une répétition-juxtaposition de mélodies que l’on croirait instantanées, improvisées; mélodies d’une simplicité enfantine, toujours tempérées et profondes.

… mélodies d’une simplicité enfantine, toujours tempérées et profondes.

Our verdict is in: This was the year’s best music

Elissa Poole, The Globe and Mail, December 27, 2011

It’s almost 2012 — so naturally, it’s time for a roundup of the best music that 2011 had to offer. Here are the Top 10 albums of the year (and the best in the classical category) according to The Globe’s music critics.

Elissa Poole’s Picks

  1. Ann Southam: ReturningsEve Egoyan, piano — So different from the joyful minimalism of her earlier music, the late Ann Southam’s final works for piano, written for Eve Egoyan, are spare and haunting, inhabiting a circumscribed world where the expressive resonance of even the simplest musical element is questioned, and where resolution is always possible but rarely permanent.
  2. Hector Berlioz: Nuits d’été; Handel: AriasLorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan, conductor — The now-legendary Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sang Berlioz’s Nuits d’été in public only once, in 1995, but fortunately the microphones were there to capture that luminous performance, and it has finally been released. The orchestra may not be as suave as we’d like, but the singing is in a class all its own.
  3. Martin Arnold: AberrareQuatuor Bozzini — When is a string quartet not a string quartet? When it’s a string quartet by Martin Arnold, which is as likely to conjure a primitive consort of stone flutes or the musical ruminations of a medieval monk. Live inside this music for a while and consciousness alters.
  4. Poesie: Orchestral Songs by Richard StraussDiana Damrau, soprano; Munich Philharmonic, Christian Thielemann, conductor — Silvery sound, beautiful diction and an extraordinary range of expressive nuance give soprano Diana Damrau’s captivating performances of Richard Strauss’s orchestral songs — many of them written for his wife, with piano accompaniment only — the kind of intimacy we rarely get outside of chamber music.
  5. Max Reger: Piano Concerto in F Minor; Richard Strauss: Burleske in D Minor — Marc-André Hamelin, piano; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Ilan Volkov, conductor — How often do we listen to a late romantic concerto we haven’t heard a hundred times? Gone are the memory cues; gone the baggage of the canon. And who better than Marc-André Hamelin to make a formidable case for Max Reger’s virtuosic, semi-modernist tribute to Brahms and let listeners decide for themselves where it fits?
  6. Béla Bartôk, Richard Strauss, Edvard Grieg: Violin SonatasVilde Frang, violin; Michail Lifits, piano — Vilde Frang plays Bartok with astounding precision, but her performance is as potent as it is clear. Her instincts are also astute in late romantic repertoire, evident in her supple phrasing and tonal nuance. No wonder the music industry has its eyes on this young Norwegian violinist.

Our verdict is in: This was the year’s best music


Nick Storring, Musicworks, no. 110, June 1, 2011
… this reading by Quatuor Bozzini of Martin Arnold’s work is equally brilliant, articulating his amblingly weightless melodies with clean precision.


Elissa Poole, The Globe and Mail, May 27, 2011

When Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe in the 16th century, he took a consort of viols along with him, and natives sometimes followed his ship in canoes, mesmerized by the alien music coming from the deck. Martin Arnold can make a string quartet seem almost as strange as Drake’s viols must have seemed to those natives. Hollow flute and percussion sounds remind us more of an elaborate wind chime than a string quartet, and in those magical places where we actually recognize stringed instruments or harmonies as such, they seem the result of some accidental alchemy. We are more interested, always, in the infinite detail of the present moment in Arnold’s music than in where his errant melodies might be going — a state of mind that is enhanced by the delicacy and conviction of the Bozzini Quartet’s interpretations. 4 stars

We are more interested, always, in the infinite detail of the present moment in Arnold’s music… — a state of mind that is enhanced by the delicacy and conviction of the Bozzini Quartet’s interpretations. 4 stars