'Flatlining' is a string quartet based on an exploration of microtonal intervals derived from the harmonic series with particular reference to various versions of sixths and sevenths. Intervals which deviate from standard temperament (relative to E) include 19/16 (19th harmonic), 13/8 (13th harmonic), 27/16 (Pythagorean major sixth), 7/4 (7th harmonic), 31/16 (31st harmonic). The title refers to decreasing distances between harmonic partials of various notes in simultaneous presentation when intervals based on interval ratios are used. When the tuning is exact (or nearly exact), the alignment of harmonic partials of one tone (octaves of fundamental) with upper partials of another one can give rise to an effect whereby the salience of some of these partials is increased, leading to an unusual foregrounding of these delicate sounds. These partials are heard separately from the rest of the instrumental sonorities (due to the slow deviations in their tuning causing them to be allocated separately), highlighting the harmonic series as a pattern of notes within a note and demonstrating how harmony and tuning can affect what we hear of the 'internal harmony' of a periodic vibration (standard musical note). This attempt to prise harmonic tones apart by approaching perfect intervals is contrasted with a rhythmic articulations which use of irregularly-accented triple-time quaver, semiquaver and dotted-quaver figures to undercut the nonetheless persistent momentum/inertia of these ascending runs, compressing the piece's pitch space into a near unison at various points before the comparative order of wider interval spaces is restored. One particularly influential piece on the genesis of this approach is Jame's Tenney's string quartet 'Koan' (1984) which rigorously explores the byproducts of microtonal journeys to and from unison presentation.
|Place of Publication||SS Michael and John/Cultivate Centre, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.|
|Publication status||Published - 26 Jun 2008|
Bibliographical notePremiered at 'Spatial Music Collective presents the Bridgewood Ensemble', SS Michael and John, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, 26th June 2008.
Reviewed by Michael Dungan in the Irish Times, June 28th (excerpt follows): 'After Beethoven, many composers - even in the 20th century - wrote string quartets with a strong, sometimes even forbidding sense of the giant at their shoulder.
There wasn't the remotest hint of any of this in Thursday night's concert of new music for string quartet by six young composers. Nor did they come across as irreverent or ignorant or iconoclastic or self-consciously part of a great tradition. Instead, their music was fresh and sincere and, in a way, utilitarian, taking the string quartet as just one more creative vehicle among many...All six were in single-movement form, similar in length (6-10 minutes), with many common features. Despite these, however, each piece was distinctive.The approaching, electronically enhanced high-point of climbing glissandi in Enda Bates's String Quartet No. 1 grows from nothing and takes you by surprise as it intensifies, like the realisation that the crash- landing airplane is headed straight for you. In contrast, glissandi served to corroborate imagery suggested by the title in Brian Bridges's eerie Flatlining.'
Reference text: Tenney, James. 'Koan'. String quartet (1984); 25'. From Music Foundation commission for the Kronos Quartet. [R: Modern String Quartet, Musicworks 64 CD]
Outputmediatype: String quartet performace
- string quartet
- harmonic series