observation 3 (salt hill) 2016
observation three: for double string quartet and double bass
Dedicated to my dear friend, the composer Neil March
This is a timecode-supported polytemporal string piece.
Duration: 15 minutes
Composer-in-Residence to the Observatory: Two site-specifically inspired string quartets across two residency locations in one year. As a composer and painter, I have a deeply held interest in the psychological and perceptual/emotional/intuitive associations between these two media and how ideas can be transacted one to the other. As well as creating two new string quartets I will also keep a video diary of the residency and creative experience, make sketches and paintings [on location] of the built and natural landscape features to explore transduction between the physical environment and sound construction transforming [intuitively] visual ideas into notation – landscape into sound. More here: marc-yeats.co.uk/blog/category/co…the-observatory/
observation three is an unforeseen extension to the work undertaken in the composition of the observations quartets as it brings the two quartets colliding together in antiphonal exchanges separated by the double bass who’s content borrows from, develops and underpins the two quartets it is flanked by. This collision generates entirely new contextual relationships between the material of the quartets. These new contexts are amplified by the double bass material to generate a dense and energetic new work for strings.
The subtitle, Salt Hill, refers to a chalk hill I visited whilst walking near Old Winchester Hill in Hampshire as part of my first residency. The title and subtitle act only as a stimulus to the imagination and a way of identifying the piece. The title holds certain resonances of the visit and what was in my mind at the time. Having said that, the music is in no way a programmatic or pastoral depiction of the place; the composer is fully aware that listeners will interpret music in many ways and appreciates that all personal interpretations are valid.
Asynchronous composition – notes:
The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Music is cued to begin only with instruments starting at the same time. There is no ‘fixed’ synchronisation between the instrumentalists. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings and time code are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance.
Compositional material is derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks. Thematic material is audible throughout the piece, bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.
The score and parts
I have not produced a score for observation three; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real-time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently, there is no definitive performance of the piece. observation three can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.
Marc Yeats -July 2016