01.Christopher Butterfield, Lullaby (1991), 18m35s
02.Christopher Butterfield, beach whistle (1993), 9m37s
03.Christopher Butterfield, Clinamen (1999), 14m34s
04.Christopher Butterfield, fall (2013), 13m19s
05.Christopher Butterfield, Trip (2008), 20m00s
05.I Allegretto scorrevole
06.II Allegro presto: light, rapid, precise
07.III Scherzo doloroso: as if intoxicated
08.IV Adagio molto
The five pieces on this disc span roughly twenty years: Lullaby was written in 1991, and fall in 2013. Lullaby for string sextet and beach whistle (1993) for solo cello, both more or less through-composed, are mostly very quiet except for occasional irruptions. Clinamen (1999) for solo violin is made up of eighty cards, each containing a short phrase, to be combined at will by the performer. Trip (2008) is a four-movement string quartet with a lopsided form in which the last movement is more than twice as long as the first three together. The instructions for the radio that appears briefly in the first movement are simply that it be tuned to “talk radio” and that it be “slightly more than unobtrusive.” fall may be the richest piece conceptually and the hardest one to grasp in a recording. Based on the chromatic rotation of a fournote row, with an audibly cumulative structure, it uses six specific dynamics, from very quiet to very loud, assigned to each pitch in each voice using chance methods. This creates an unpredictable “voice leading” and a sense of undependable harmony: the chords keep repeating in randomized dynamics, so one finds oneself in a landscape in which everything is the same, but not.
Both Trip and fall were written for the Quatuor Bozzini. What a joy it is to work with them. — Christopher Butterfield, August 2016
Since forming in 1999, Montréal’s Quatuor Bozzini have steadily ascended to become not only one of the most daring string quartets in Canada, but in the entire world. The consistently bring both an exquisite touch and a refined sensibility to music that demands invisible rigor. In recent years, they’ve earned acclaim for their peerless readings of music by Swiss Wandelweiser Collective composer Jürg Frey, but they’ve also been key proponents of lesser-known composers from their homeland, including Martin Arnold and Simon Martin.
This new offering focuses on the music of Christopher Butterfield, an influential Canadian figure whose position at the University of Victoria has impacted scores of young composers over the last few decades. His own work isn’t as well known as it should be, but Trip certainly provides a good opportunity to catch up. The five pieces here span over two decades — the two most recent compositions, Trip (2008) and Fall, (2013) were written specifically for Quatuor Bozzini. The earliest piece here, Lullaby, is a piece for string sextet; its tightly-controlled moods are conveyed at a hush except for some bracing, hair-raising interruptions that subside as suddenly as they appear. Over time, Butterfield has embraced chance in his process: the solo violin piece Clinamen, for example, is shaped largely by short phrases printed on eighty cards to be mixed at will by the performer, while the aleatoric nature of the four-movement title piece produces unpredictable harmonies within a relatively fixed structure, changing the nature of the work with every new performance.