String Quartet No. 2 (Wheel – Star) (Urbana 4) (1999-2000)

For string quartet.
Editions Gérard Billaudot, for rent.

Commissioned by the Quatuor Liger.

Reading by the Quatuor Liger in the Robino-Naón Exposition – Nantes, May 2001.
Prize “Luis de Narváez” de la Caja de Granada. Premiered in Granada on 2nd April 2002. By Orpheus Quartet.

Circa 17 min.

By its extremely coded essence, the first and almost instantaneously visual image that appears when one sees a string quartet is four musicians playing chamber music. The weight this tradition carries is always heavy in the case of string instruments; in this traditional value scale, the quartet represents the highest and richest musical forms that have given place to outstanding pages in the occidental musical history.

Once more, for me, this is about picking up and recovering these images from the past in order to twist them in my own way, and to use them without hesitation and with no precise references (in the whole quartet there is no quotation), that way I led them into my own language. However, this language is paradoxically a regular place for the string quartet: a kind of high culture form, a privileged land where the individual tends to fade away leaving the space for the whole, all in all the very essence of chamber music, or maybe simple of the musical gesture.

The subtitle “Wheel – Star” is formed by two keywords that allow the listening phenomenon to walk into the land of writing.

The idea of the “wheel” is born from the first image formed by the group of musicians in relation to the public that surrounds them and which extends the semicircle established in the scene: the drawing in which I imagined this situation created, precisely, this idea that would become the “theme” for quartet no. 2.

The “star” (the five points of the star) comprises the five movement mechanism (of different characters and durations) and impart the necessary speed for the circle, static by essence, to start rotating. The fictitious or real movement which was felt in the heart of the musical idea is born from the multiplying impulse of the five reference points that are the musicians and at the same time the pentagon or star.

In this work I have ventured, in the aesthetic and personal level, into personally unexplored or at least unconfessed land: the process and the repetition. I had always overlooked and discarded these two composition “behaviours” because I saw them as easy and mechanical.

As for the quartet, the essential action forces are conditioned by process, repetition and speed, always governed by a superior level which relates them to what is lyrical and to the global shape.

The instrumental execution techniques have almost no variation in the interior of each movement, so that the way the listening of the invention is privileged towards the pure state and the successive developments. Only the third movement, which constitutes a kind of summary or fixed point (even with its great force concentration put into practice it is fixed), escapes this rule.

The harmonic points of reference, as well as certain memories of identifiable sound images, are created as milestones for listening, and go beyond each movement’s frame. This way we are thought to be found in “already lived” auditory situations. These suspensions of time (as if we were in the centre of the wheel) allow the unchaining and speeding of the discourse.

The facets, angles and perspectives follow each other and collide in order for the observer and the object to crystalize in a unique idea, an idea of a fast reality that, because of the apparent immobility of the images, is a lot more significant (nothing shifts but everything is moving.)

The clearest analogy is situated in the metaphor of the wheel as a symbol of speed and perfectly stable balance. This metaphor should be read as a reference and a tribute to the second paradox of Zenon de Elea’s movement (quoted by Jorge Luis Borges in “Avatares de la tortuga.” Discusión. Buenos Aires, 1932)

The relation between “Wheel Star” with the urban space is, at least, double: on the one hand, the work has its roots within the acceleration-stable balance opposition, a; on the other hand, the work is built, like in architecture and also urbanism tend to do it, on the base of pure geometry, lines leak, vectors and structures, never exposed in the forefront but always present in our everyday reality.

Quatuor à cordes n°2 – I

Quatuor à cordes n°2 – II

Quatuor à cordes n°2 – III

Quatuor à cordes n°2 – IV

Quatuor à cordes n°2 – V

Quatuor à cordes n°2

Concert at Salle Olivier Messiaen Masion de Radio France
Ensemble 2e2m
directed by Paul Méfano

[ Urbana Cycle ]
[ Chambre Music ]