»Dedicated to the Küchl Quartet, in memory of young victims of violence and suffering«

Commissioned by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and Art (BMfUK)

For string quartet

Premiere: November 1993, in the Vienna Musikverein, with the Küchl Quartet
Duration: ca. 28 minutes
Score:
ECA Nr. 8024
Available through:
Edition Contemp Art (Verlagsgruppe Hermann)
Goldschmiedgasse 10, A-1010 Wien
E-mail: sales{at}hermann.eu | tel: +43 / 1 / 534 62 40 | Fax: +43 / 1 / 534 62 67

 

1st Sketch

René Staar - Versunkene Träume op.22c - I


Live recording, April 28, 2005, EWC in the ASC


2nd Sketch

René Staar - Versunkene Träume op.22c - II


Live recording, October 30, 2007, EWC in the ASC


3rd Sketch

René Staar - Versunkene Träume op.22c - III


Live recording June 29, 2002, EWC in the ASC


4th Sketch

René Staar - Versunkene Träume op.22c - IV


Live recording June 29, 2002, EWC in the ASC


5th Sketch

René Staar - Versunkene Träume op.22c - V


Live recording October 30, 2007, EWC in the ASC

 

René Staar: Introduction

For some time now I have been interested in relationships between chords that are not founded on the traditional, triadic thinking of major-minor tonality but that derive from the choral potentialities inherent in specific intervals. The inner structure of a chord can be decisively changed in a variety of ways. Transposition and inversion are two possibilities from traditional harmonic theory. I am, however, much more interested in interval-related mutations by means of an interchange of the implicit intervals within chords. This is a process I would describe as »Composition by means of chord realignment«.

An example: a four-note chord consists of three intervals one on top of the other. Should this four-note chord be composed - as in the present work - of two minor seconds (minor second = 2) and a major third (major third = 5), it can be transformed by chord realignment into another three completely different chords generating expressive possibilities quite unlike those of traditional transposition and inversion. The resulting chords would be (expressed in numbers):

2

5

2

5

2

2

2

2

5

It is immediately apparent that chord 3 is an inversion of chord 2 (although this has nothing in common with inversion in the traditional sense) while chord 1 stands apart despite its relationship to the other two.

Logically such chord realignment is only meaningful when at least three notes are played at the same time (a three-note chord) and that with four or more notes, together with the use of transposition, inversion and other compositional techniques, it can lead to an extremely complex, multifarious and intensive sonority.

Vanished Dreams is one of a group of works in which the division of intervals forms the harmonic starting-point. The triton, constituting half of the octave, defines the limits of the chords. To the three chords already described above can be added a further three gained by the inclusion of a whole tone (a third of a triton) - (whole tone = 3, minor third = 4):

3

4

3

2

2

3

4

3

3

Here it can be seen that chords 4 and 5 are in turn inversions, or rather mirror-images, of their partner chords while chord 6 (as antipode to chord 1) falls outside the system.

I chose the chord constellation described above as the harmonic starting-point for a complex of works to which my Metamorphoses of a Labyrinth, La Fontaine de Sang and the Metropolitan Midnight Music also belong.

All these works clearly reveal one common factor, namely that, as far as delimination is concerned, it is not the octave but the tritone that is of paramount importance.

Vanished Dreams was written in 1993 at the instigation of the Küchl Quartet and the aftermath of the arson attack on Turkish families in Mölln in which two children died. Spontaneously I decided to write a six-movement work to commemorate children and young people who died as a result of violence.

Superficially the work may appear to be one of grief and protest. However, a sense of life and of the joy in being alive initially dominates each movement as a pulsating nucleus that seeks to portray the lives and hopes of the young victims.

The movements together with their dedications are as follows:

I Allegro spirito – Adagio
In memory of Yeliz Arsian and Ayce Yilmaz, victims of the arson attack in Mölln on November 21st 1992

II Andante irreale a misterioso - vivo
In memory of Jaime Burgler who, on Feruary 12th 1993 aged 2, was murdered in Liverpool by two ten-year-old boys

III Allegro moderato
Dedicated to the children suffering with thyroid cancer as a direct result of the Tschernobyl disaster in 1986

IV Allegro eruptivo - Poco allegro
In memory of Vedrana Galavy (3 years old when she died) and Roki Sulejmanovic (just 14 month old) who were killed when snipers attacked a bus evacuating children from Sarajevo on August 1st 1992.

V Largo desolato
In memory of Laurent Gaudin who, infected by contaminated blood, died of aids in 1992.

VI Allegro moderato
For Marcello Rosa de Oliveira and his brother Marcos, both shot by armed man in civilian clothes on April 30th 1990 in Diadem, San Paolo because a signature was missing from their work passes.

Each movement grows out of a pulsating nucleus relating it to the life and the cultural environment of those to whom it is dedicated. The first movement contrasts two different kinds of dreamlike memories of Turkish folk-songs, the character of the second is that of a Berceuse while the third takes as its starting point a seemingly geometric mechanism that one could describe almost as abstract. In the fourth movement the form develops out of rhythmic nuclei stemming from two Bosnian folk-songs, one from Serbian, the other from a Muslim village, analogous to the two dedicatees. The fifth movement is the only one that is characterized by chronic disease and death from the very beginning while the sixth borrows its material from the many and diverse rhythms and accents of Brazilian »Musica Popular«.

The element of joy at the wonders if life is confronted with both the intrusion of violence and the element of grief. It is a form of grief, however, which gives a remarkable impression of remoteness, of being unrelated to those near to us but is rather an expression of our own bewilderment when confronted with the death and violence home to us by the media, an assault that we in turn try to parry as quickly as possible. These strains of mourning which permeate all the movements of the work - Variations on a »Pseudochoral« - are entitled »Distant Recollections of Nocturnal Bells« in the score. While this title may seem almost to reflect the aesthetic appeal of grief, it is intended rather as a recollection of melancholy that we can no longer feel or of grief for the loss of our own moral sensitivity.

It should not be overlooked in this work that the rhythmic components are mechanistic events as well as elements of life.

In this respect a preference for the number 5 becomes apparent. 5/8 bars and quintuplets are to be found in abundance whereby their use is always consistent with the structure of the particular movement.

The 5/8 rhythms in the first movement derive from the way in which the Turkish asak singer constantly shifts his stresses: so 3 plus 2 eighth notes alternate with 2 plus 3 over a three-bar period itself irregular.

The quintuplets in the Vivo of the second movement (»Distant Recollections of Nocturnal Bells II«) - cascading phrases producing a strangely alienating effect - derive from a conception of music from an altogether unreal dimension, a singular »Music of the Spheres«.

Two eighth notes and two dotted eighth notes constitute the pulse of the 5/8 bars in the fourth movement, an uneven, nervous pulsation in contrast to the steady motion of the first movement, which is soon joined by an even more nervous pulse of three eighth-note triplets and three eighth notes. The coming together of the two at the end of the movement conjures up the illusion of a stretto.

In the last movement the quintuplet is placed in the context of a rhythm constantly developing forwards from triplets through sixteenth notes to quintuplets. All these rhythms are accentuated in varying degrees by percussive collegno blows on the fingerboard. The movement’s coda reworks the given differentials once more in a new way by relativizing the tempi. A quintuplet sixteenth note becomes thus a sixteenth note, which means in effect that the beat is quicker while the motion stays the same. Accents and phrasing are shifted. The dominant impression at the end of the work is of the structure disintegrating at the same time as the motions strives, by means of relativizing the tempi, towards an illusory and unattainable end. I wanted in this way also to depict the perpetual chain of destruction and creation to which there is no foreseeable end. (René Staar, September 1993; Translation: Jeremy Day)