ParaMETAString (1996) for quartet and tape by Unsuk Chin (b.1961) started Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival’s Saturday-evening Ozawa Hall concert. According to the composer’s notes:
ParaMetaString is a study based on string sounds. Its four movements can be characterized as follows:
The first movement uses blocks of sound from artificially condensed tremolo sounds. While these blocks are heard in alternation, a subliminal rhythmic structure is gradually established, creating an expanding time structure. Layers of sound which would be covered up by the sound of un-manipulated strings are brought into the foreground through a filtering process.
The second movement revolves around the study of the structure of harmonics. The col legno beats of the cello on the note C, which gradually become slower and heavier, are used as an ostinato bass. In contrast to this, a structure of harmonics unfolds, the rhythm of which is divided up into smaller and smaller units. These two lines develop in a complementary way – the slower the bass, the finer the division of the trebles.
The third movement focuses on the diverse micro modulations within a cello note that slowly glides downwards, and, in contrast to this, on the ‘fluctuating’ fifths within the upward modulations of the other strings. The key note is D.
The fourth movement is, in essence, the development of the first. The rhythmic patterns of the first movement are used to create the rhythm of balls falling down and bouncing back, while the tempo increases and gravitation reverses its direction.
The Kronos Quartet commissioned ParaMetaString. Eunryung Chang (cello) and Matthias Leupold (violin) recorded the original string sounds win the electronic studio of the Technical University, Berlin (under the direction of Folkmar Hein) in 1995.
We heard the first movement start with alternating tremolo and varying dynamics and end in pianissimo. The second movement constituted a study of overtones, which the quartet represented through flageolets accompanied by pizzicato and col legno, generating a sound similar to an Indian sitar. The third movement generated clouds of sounds, almost like tuning in the beginning. The piece concluded with rhythmic development of the first movement in patterns that sounded like raindrops and stones bouncing of a watery surface. The piece generally resembled the music composer’s teacher, György Ligeti.
In Augusta Read Thomas’s Bebop Riddle for cellist Norman Fisher, head of chamber music at Tanglewood music center, engaged in a jazzy conversation with his piano partner Bethany Pietroniro.
Mario Davidovsky’s String Quartet No. 6 began with pointillistic pizzicato particles in the opening bars accompanied by a muted second violin. A melody in the cello and an array of heterogeneous sonic elements followed. The fragments represented textural tension, rather than unanimity of the musicians, who were gluing the fragments back together.
Eleanor Alberga is a composer originally from Jamaica, whose String Quartet No. 2 reminded of Leo Janacek and even Shostakovich. The music explores earthly and unearthly themes in a one movement. A galloping beginning motive preceded outbursts. Various inversions, transpositions and other compositors techniques characterized the work. Its one movement embraces sections with sharp contrasts. The lullaby-like middle section is followed by pizzicatos and players take turns in dissonant thicket and end “joyful and earthy.“
Tanglewood Music Center fellows and faculty brought Saturday evening’s contemporary music to life in an engaging and accessible fashion, drawing audience members inside Ozawa Hall from the beautiful lawn.