Esquisse II pour quatuor à cordes (2013)

Simon Martin

string quartet

Program Notes

Esquisse II is a revised version of the sketch proposed for the Composer’s Kitchen in Montreal last spring. It is still a «sketch» because it is meant to be the first part of a concert-piece for string quintet (string quartet plus doublebass) I’m currently working on.

This part is about timbre; or, rather, about raw sound matter — such as breathing tones and rattles. Thus, the harmonic and rythmical materials are almost inexistant. I naturally chose to benefit from this fabulous opportunity with the Bozzini Quartet to workshop these elements of my futur piece among all others, because their behavior is, needless to say, highly unpredictable on the paper. In fact, Esquisse II has needed a lot of research, discussion, video cutting, theoretical classification, etc. So, in a sense, the piece is all that is left after weeks and months of panning for gold — hoping not to get fooled.

Aesthetically arises the question: at what time, precisely, do those sounds become art? In other words, at what time do sounds become more then just themselves — that is, music? (It can also become, of course, a very practical question while working with the performers.) This question is the very subject of my art work. Radically, I consider music as sound contaminated by the virus of langague. In that, I aknowledge that one cannot exist without the other, contrary to Cage who considered that sounds could be perceived for themselves without any interrelation — music — implied. Like if a tought could exist without langage.

On my part, while dealing with sound objects, I try to avoid two extreme propositions where the piece is either:

  1. A collection of too many, so that the compositionnal process is basically to align stuff.
  2. A focus on very few, so that the performer becomes the actual composer, litterally «creating» every sound.

Somewhere in beetween, I’m looking for the music (semiology) being dedicated to a better appreciation of sound (phenomenology), this dialectic tension actually producing very conventionnal formal canevas and dramatic structures.

Simon Martin

Montreal, october 6th 2013