II. Spectral Sunrise
50 For The Future:
The Kronos Learning
About the work
“In space, the seemingly simple idea of standing still becomes a complex notion, demanding great precision and enormous effort, and is achievable only by travelling at great speed. In ‘Geostationary’, I wanted to capture this paradox in music, with always at least one instrument (usually the viola) in perpetual mechanical motion while the violins try to float their static melody, which never succeeds in leaving the starting note behind and falls back each time into the vacuum. At regular intervals their stationary orbit sweeps our four astronauts through a meteor shower where they are bombarded by high-energy micro-particles scattering in every direction.
“‘Spectral Sunrise’ was inspired by hearing an astronaut talking on the radio about seeing sixteen sunrises per day when he was in the International Space Station, and the undiminishing wonder he felt each time at the searing intensity of the arriving light and the absolute darkness which followed its disappearance. I wanted to combine this idea with a form commonly used by baroque composers for a middle movement of three, sometimes just a few simple chords over which the players improvise. In this four-minute piece we hear three sunrises, each one followed by darkness illuminated only by a solo improvisation by one of the players. Before the last sunrise, there is a brief Spacewalk, which explores the comical side of trying to walk in a straight line in space.
“‘Dimensions’ deals with the many possible dimensions which surround us, represented by the physical movements of the bow through space. In the first dimension, only vertical movement is possible. In the second, only horizontal movement along the string is possible. Then only circular motion, then alternating between the two sides of the bow (the stick and the hair). The fun really starts when we begin to mix the dimensions, slipping from one to another, and the piece builds to a climax of spectacular bow techniques including the ‘whip’ and the ‘helicopter’, producing a huge range of other-worldly sounds.”
Garth Knox demonstrates and discusses key techniques in Satellites. Participating quartets, Ligeti, Argus, and Friction Quartets, perform excerpts as part of the Kronos Quartet Workshop presented by the Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall.
Notes on I. Geostationary begin at 0:00
Notes on II. Spectral Sunrise begin at 9:18
Notes on III. Dimensions begin at 18:13
Garth Knox discusses his musical background as a violist, his composition process, his relationship with Kronos, and more.
Garth Knox is one of today’s leading performers of contemporary music, and his formative experience as a member of Pierre Boulez’s Ensemble InterContemporain and then as violist of the Arditti Quartet has given him a very comprehensive grasp of new music. Stimulated by the practical experience of working on a personal level with composers such as Boulez, Ligeti, Berio, Xenakis, and many others, he channels and expands this energy when writing his own music.
Knox’s solo and ensemble pieces have been played all over Europe, USA, and Japan. He has received commissions from the Festival d’Automne in Paris, Proquartet (France), Concorde Ensemble (Ireland), Lucillin Ensemble (Luxembourg), Tokyo International Viola Competition (Japan), Camarata Variabile (Switzerland), Radio France, and the Kronos Quartet (USA).
Viola Spaces, the first phase of a multi-faceted, on-going series of concert studies for strings published in 2010 by Schott, combines ground-breaking innovation in string technique with joyous pleasure in the act of music making, and the pieces have been adopted and performed by young string players all over the world.
Garth's piece has a whole bunch of interesting techniques concerning how to move the bow, techniques that are all really cool and fun to do. In a way, they're training exercises because you have to be aware of where your sounding point is and where you are in the bow at all times in order to execute them well. You definitely come out of this piece a stronger player."