In for solo viola the violist performs a series of fragments, each of which draws on different aspects of the instrument’s tone qualities and methods of sound production. Once these ideas have been exposed, their component parts are separated and re-assembled in the ‘wrong’ manner several times. Thus, some passages become technically impossible to execute in the manner suggested by the notation. For instance, on more than one occasion, the performer is asked to play with a pressed bow at a very quiet volume. for solo viola thrives on the failure of purity. What we hear is not ‘normal’ music–making, nor is it an assemblage of isolated extended techniques (in the manner of musique concrète instrumentale), but the sound of the instrument itself, its component parts, the mechanics involved in performing upon it.
December 2009: Helen Palmer, University of Leeds
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