Here, Not There (2007-09) is an exceptionally interesting piece for string quartet and electronics by the contemporary French composer, Frederic Durieux. In this piece, he uses electronics with incredible sophistication to be like another member of the ensemble. There are points when the electronics are clearly subservient to the acoustic instruments, like when they are used as delay effects, repeating what has just been played. At other points, however, they become an independent backdrop or even take the foreground in the music. This versatile approach to the use of electronics is pretty spectacular.
While Durieux uses the electronics to color the stringed instruments, he also uses a varied palette of tone colors from the strings themselves that keep the piece fresh and interesting. While surely not as extremely varied as a piece like Helmut Lachenmann’s Gran Torso, that’s not really the point. Durieux has instead grouped many parameters, including timbre, rhythm, etc., together to create recurring motifs, so his economy of his timbral language adds more coherence to the piece than if he had just thrown every possible sound strings can make onto the page. It’s never too much, but it never feels stagnant.
Speaking of not stagnating, it must be said that the pacing of this piece is fantastic as well. Just when you have almost had enough of the bustle, he throws broad, extensive harmonies at you. And once you begin to yearn for more activity to bubble up onto the scene, it does! When you combine this pacing with the superb control of pitch material, timbre, rhythm, and electronics, it becomes clear that this piece is really something.
- The opening pizzicato+delay effect texture is such a cool effect. It sounds even cooler when the players begin playing with col legno in addition to the pizzicato.
- Love the groove at 1’40”. It has such a good feel to it because of the extremely metric disorganization of the rhythm.
- The contrast between the arco parts, which are very dry in terms of electronic coloring, and the pizz parts, which are fairly wet, makes both sections very interesting as a listener.
- The artificial, staccato electronic part that begins around 2’05” makes the plucked strings have even more vitality because, despite the similarity in note length, the timbres are so colorfully contrasting.
- The arco parts around 2’25” are the perfect complement to the pizzicato and electronic sounds surrounding them.
- When the delay effect gets super wet at 2’40” it sounds incredible. Durieux’s rhythmic writing here and throughout the piece is superb.
- Gorgeous harmonic writing at 3’48”-4’44”. The sonorities have such an elegant flow to them. The harmonies only are enriched by his use of harmonics and very subtle electronics.
- At 8’, Durieux lays down the gauntlet on subtle, complex electronic parts in an acoustic setting. The pizzicato become so much more intricate than they already are because of how he layers the electronics into them. I love the humorous tones of the electronics at 8’08” as well.
- The snap pizz at 9’06” could not have been placed at a better point rhythmically.
- The irregularly rhythmic percussive texture that emerges at 9’18” creates an unbelievable backdrop for the square, continuous sixteenth note string parts that come in above it.
- After so much activity throughout the piece, the sparseness of 11’34” feels so right.
Feel free to comment with any thoughts, questions, or recommendations, I’d love to hear them. Hope you enjoyed the music!