Only today I listened – several times – to Quatuor, out since three years ago or so. Let’s immediately say that it was a pleasurable experience for yours truly. It also had the merit of rekindling my interest for Ludwig Van Beethoven’s String Quartet No.10, to which I returned with due attention after discovering the origins of this electroacoustic score by Sébastien Roux, commissioned by GRM in Paris and realized in their studio.
In fact, Roux processed and recombined nineteen short fragments – transcribed by composer Mathieu Bonilla – of the aforementioned quartet; these were played by flutist Michael Schmidt, clarinetist Laurent Brutin, French hornist Ludovic Meylan, percussionist Mathieu Chardon and cellist Séverine Ballon. This procedure of “sonic translation” lies at the basis of Roux’s creative interests, and has been applied to other opuses of his; the principle being that of using pre-existing art, of any kind, as compositional material.
The result is a piece subdivided in the same way as the original in terms of movements, but definitely in a class of its own in regard to the unpredictability of dynamics and complexion. The perceived density changes quite frequently: the sounds appear subtly splintered for long stretches, harmoniously flowing in the most rewarding sections. Roux has produced a malleable tangibleness that sets each frequency in a state of uncontrollable multiplicity. This translates into an inexhaustible evocativeness replete with imploding echoes, startling apparitions and quasi-autistic kinetic reiteration. And yet the music works at lower volume as well, fleeting abstractions emerging from different angles of the aural perspective together with more “regular” orchestral reminiscences.
The album’s enthralling counter-grammar might cause its appreciation society to attract aficionados of variable descent, from lowercase monks to acousmatic zealots. The depth of its luminescent fluidity, however, keeps Quatuor at a safe distance from the average level of computer-based documentation. In a word, remarkable.