Composer’s Kitchen


Composer’s Kitchen is a professional residency produced by Quatuor Bozzini since 2005 for composers in string quartet writing. Offered to 4 participants, it is a combination of workshop, laboratory, masterclass, and concert settings. The residency occurs over two phases: in the first phase, a week-long workshop occurs in Montréal (Canada), where sketches are developed into new compositions by being read, played, assessed, analysed, worked on, played again and performed in a final concert. Six months later, all the artists reunite in the Composer’s Kitchen second phase which takes place in partnership with an international organization (in the past: Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Sound and Music/Sound Scotland), and the pieces from the Montréal portion will be refreshed and revised prior to a final performance in the international partner country. Throughout the process, the composers will be supported by — other than Quatuor Bozzini — the presence of experienced mentors who are amongst the most important figures in new music creation.

“Dare to do what you’ve never dared before!”

Each edition of the Composer’s Kitchen is a chance to rigorously work in a creative, non-competitive and relaxed atmosphere. Residents are encouraged to experiment beyond the limits of convention and to explore new and varied aesthetic styles in a way that their mastery in string quartet writing is strengthened to its highest degree during this enriching experience.

Quatuor Bozzini loves cultivating these relationships with composers beyond the residency period, resulting in a rich network of collaborations. In this way, Quatuor Bozzini always strives to stay active in current trends and practices of emerging composers.

In Concert

In the Press

What’s cooking in The Composer’s Kitchen?

By Kate Molleson in Gramophone (UK), May 10, 2012
Take the Bozzini Quartet, add six young composers, season with two mentors and stir it all together in Montréal for a tantalising menu of contemporary music-making.

Take the Bozzini Quartet, add six young composers, season with two mentors and stir it all together in Montréal for a tantalising menu of contemporary music-making.

The premise is simple enough: six young composers spend two weeks in April bouncing ideas off each other, a couple of mentors and a string quartet, first in Montréal, then in Yorkshire. The end goal is a showcase at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November. Other groups run other similarly intensive composition workshops, so what makes the Composer’s Kitchen particularly worth writing about?

Probably it’s the ethos of the thing. Billed as ‘a combination of laboratory, playground and masterclass’, the project is hosted annually by one of Montréal’s more industrious and open-minded new music ensembles, the Bozzini Quartet. They’re clearly skilled adjudicators, too, because the six composers (two Brits, four Canadians) selected from 60-odd applicants turned out to be an unusually down-to-earth, musically diverse and genial bunch.

A few days into the Montréal week, composer and CK mentor Christopher Fox confided his epiphany to this effect: ‘I used to teach at Darmstadt’s summer school where students would soon enough kill each other if it meant they’d win the final prize,’ he said. ’Here there’s no hint of competition. Everyone’s piece gets showcased in the final concert, and because they’re all coming from different musical backgrounds they seem happy to pitch in with constructive feedback on each other’s work. Actually, they all seem to genuinely like each other. Bloody brilliant.’ For his part, Fox’s ‘mentoring’ looked a hoot; more reciprocal enthusiasm than teacher-to-student pronouncement.

Some of the composers turned up with pieces that were nearly finished and mostly needed logistical help tweaking details of notation to make the parts playable. Thierry Tidrow brought a score of dense and convoluted microtones that took the Bozzinis — some of the best sight-readers in the business — dozens of attempts to navigate. They patiently explained the pros and cons of various common symbols, while Fox’s fellow mentor Malcolm Goldstein, veteran improviser of the New York avant-garde, just shook his head. ‘Ultimately the composer’s responsibility is to communicate his intentions with absolute clarity,’ he sighed, and pulled out a pile of Morton Feldman scores to demonstrate.

Other participants arrived with nothing more than words and the genesis of an idea, and it was these who stirred up the real depths of debate as the week went on. What’s the point of writing down music? Where does a composer’s obligation end? What potential can be drawn from raw open strings and the harmonics of subtle tuning? John Lely produced a single sheet of spare four-part chords, which the group tugged apart for hours. Lovely stuff.

Composers, mentors and Bozzinis members now have six months to gestate before reuniting for Part II. Huddersfield’s director Graham McKenzie cites the Composer’s Kitchen as a prime example of how the festival should invest in incubating new work. I’m looking forward to the final results in November.

Composer’s Kitchen 2012

By Scott McLaughlin in hcmf// (UK), April 1, 2012
Such a problem (and its various solutions) only arises from the experience of working through the piece, for which the Kitchen is an invaluable project.

As part of hcmf//’s exchange with Quatuor Bozzini’s Composer’s Kitchen, myself and five other composers spent a week in Montréal working with the quartet, along with mentors Christopher Fox and Malcolm Goldstein.

Myself and John Lely arrived in Montréal a few days early to see the quartet play in their salon series, a fascinating concert for string quartet and gamelan, and another with the Bozzini’s alone playing a piece by previous Kitchen participant Richard Glover and a hcmf//2011 commission by James Weeks, as well as new pieces by our two mentors, all beautifully performed. It was especially interesting to hear Malcolm’s work as it was completely new to me at the time, and shared many concerns with my own work — but this was also the tone for the week, every piece seemed to connect in some way with what I was doing, this new piece I was writing flows out of my way of musicking but was also developing from the environment of the Kitchen, soaking up ideas and connections.

The Composers Kitchen began on Sunday for introductions and a run through of the initial sketches. Each composer approached the Kitchen in their own way. Some arrived with pieces that were almost completely written, and across the week the players drew out an infinity of nuance and detail, prompting plenty of useful discussion as the works are questioned and refined. Some arrived with only an idea, a few scraps of notation, directions, constraints, techniques, etc., and the players responded with a wonderful willingness to experiment, fully engaged with the exploration.

Myself, I arrived in Montréal with no score but some materials and text directions, a fuzzy expression of a clear idea with two things that I wished to explore. The main idea was the inherent non-linearity of sound production in strings when played very close to the bridge. Here the harmonics can be unpredictable and change with the slightest variation in bowing, requiring a virtuosity of touch that I’ve seen the Bozzini’s bring to performances of Jurg Frey and others. The other idea was to center the interaction of the players as much as possible on listening. To construct a score in the tradition of Christian Wolff and others where the players are cueing each other through sound, or making decisions based on what they can hear from the group as a whole. In practice, this last element proved most awkward and needed to be rethought as the week went on. When all the quartet are playing high slow harmonics with no sharp attacks, it is almost impossible to know who is playing what. While I was certainly after a high level of blending (a single sound across the quartet) I hadn’t anticipated that it could also undermine the interaction of the players. Such a problem (and its various solutions) only arises from the experience of working through the piece, for which the Kitchen is an invaluable project.

We all work each day from 9-5, composers meeting in pairs or groups with mentors and performers. Variations are tried, notations are queried, revised, and tried again, material is moved around, replaced, re-examined and reinforced. In the evenings there is always excellent food and drinks, especially at Casa Del Popolo.

During the week we alternate sessions with mentors with group rehearsals, and each morning begins with a listening session with works drawn from the quartet’s repertoire. As the week goes on there’s a shift from experimentation to consolidation, in preparation for the closing concert. The quartet explained at the start that none of us should feel obliged to have a piece ready for the end of the week, but no-one declined the offer of a concert rendition; I at least want an opportunity to hear the piece in a public performance context, to see how the ideas hold up. In the end, for my piece we settled on a single idea, only the players’ right-hand would be used, coaxing out the natural harmonics of the strings using only the bow, varying its speed, pressure, and position on the string. A rough structure and score is drawn up for the concert, and results in performance exceed my expectations, but still the piece is not complete, more work needs to be done on the structure and the interaction, but the technique at least is solid.

In November 2012 we all meet again in Huddersfield to rehearse and finalise the pieces for performance at hcmf//.


By Seán Clancy in seanlclancy (UK), May 3, 2013
I’m just back from two fabulous weeks in Montréal where I was a participant in the Bozzini Quartet’s Composer’s Kitchen…

I’m just back from two fabulous weeks in Montréal where I was a participant in the Bozzini Quartet’s Composer’s Kitchen alongside fellow composers Marielle Groven, Simon Martin and Amber Priestley, as well as mentor composers Laurence Crane and Michael Oesterle. We were all immensely fortunate to work extremely close with the quartet and two incredibly brilliant and insightful mentors and for this I am very grateful. Prior to Composer’s Kitchen, it was a great treat to hear some wonderful English, Canadian and Norwegian music during the Bozzini Quartet’s Salon QB series where they were joined by English Pianist Philip Thomas. These were extremely refreshing concerts with superb performances, with particular highlights for me being afforded the opportunity to hear live performances of Martin Arnold, Laurence Crane, Bryn Harrison, Cassandra Miller, Michael Oesterle & my good friend Howard Skempton. The sound of their music rang in my ears long after the performances had finished.

We hit the ground running with the Composer’s Kitchen and it was incredible. Every day we experimented, refined, rehearsed, discussed and experienced each other’s compositions, with the quartet making every discernible effort to really get inside each of our pieces. Their utter dedication to the music was palpable. This was matched by extremely sound comments and advice from Laurence and Michael which really elevated the pieces. The final concert was a huge success and it was such a warm experience hearing these four pieces really coming to life with expert performances from the quartet.

It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to get to know my peer composers Marielle, Simon and Amber and Mentors Laurence and Michael. A pleasure to hear their music, hear them talk about their music and experience all their little eccentricities and how these filtered into their music. Their music for me was an extension of their personality and it was so heart warming to hear this play out. It was incredibly beautiful to hear their work develop over the week and how it was tweaked, refined, rendered and given birth to in high-definition. For my own part, I was extremely delighted with my own piece Neue Kraft Fühlend and believe it to be amongst the best things I’ve written. It was also such an honour to work with a quartet so dedicated to our music and so interested in bringing it to life. This was trumped only by their friendliness, hospitality, generosity and genuine warmth, with each member of the quartet welcoming us into their families and homes.

I really feel that this was an invaluable experience for my development as a composer and I really feel that I have met some life long friends and co-conspirators. I was immensely sad to have left everyone behind as we went our separate ways, but this was only leg I of our journey together. We will meet again for Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival!

I want to thank the Bozzini Quartet (and Cléo Palacio-Quintin for her hospitality!) for selecting me for participation in this scheme and affording me the opportunity to work with them and to meet so many remarkable people.

À bientôt mes amis du Canada!


By Lucie Renaud in Clavier bien tempéré (Québec), April 28, 2013
Lors de la 9e édition de leur Composer’s Kitchen, le Quatuor Bozzini invitait hier les curieux à entrer dans l’antre de la création, à humer ce qui bouillonnait dans le chaudron, en proposant quatre pièces de jeunes compositeurs.

Que trouve-t-on dans la cuisine d’un compositeur? Des sons, des expériences, des idées; autant de potions plus ou moins magiques qui, si correctement utilisées, peuvent mener l’auditeur ailleurs. Et si on pouvait se tapir dans un coin du laboratoire et être témoin des essais et parfois erreurs, alors qu’une œuvre en est encore à ses balbutiements, qu’interprètes et compositeur cherche la voie pour transmettre l’émotion efficacement. Lors de la 9e édition de leur Composer’s Kitchen, le Quatuor Bozzini invitait hier les curieux à entrer dans l’antre de la création, à humer ce qui bouillonnait dans le chaudron, en proposant quatre pièces de jeunes compositeurs (deux du Canada, deux du Royaume-Uni) qui, toute la semaine, avaient travaillé en collaboration avec les musiciens, sous la houlette de leurs parrains compositeurs, Michael Oesterle et Laurence Crane.

Amber Priestley a proposé avec And Yest Something Shines, Something Sings in That Silence une page ludique, les membres du quatuor retournant leur partition après chaque bref mouvement, piochant dans les motifs proposés, assemblant le tout au fur et à mesure. Même si nous avions affaire ici à une narration ne relevant aucunement de la linéarité, le pièce dégageait néanmoins une impression de cohérence, les intentions se trouvant cernées en quelques gestes, souvent habiles.

Neue Kraft Fühlend de Sean Clancy se voulait le négatif du mouvement central du Quatuor opus 132 de Beethoven (de la partition duquel est tirée la citation du titre), les sections plus intenses se trouvant allégées, les passages effervescents devenant concentrés, comme si la structure même du mouvement de Beethoven se trouvait évidée et que Clancy y réarrangeait le matériau, y intégrant bien évidemment de larges pans de son univers. Sans pouvoir obtenir une image claire de la «photographie» d’origine à l’écoute, on peut néanmoins reconnaître le côté obstiné du Beethoven tardif et cette maîtrise imparable avec laquelle il peut échafauder un édifice cohérent à partir d’une simple cellule mélodique ou rythmique. Le tout s’est terminé dans la fatalité la plus pure, les pizzicatos des violons et de l’alto, presque féroces, s’opposant au chant du violoncelle. Une œuvre que je prendrai plaisir à réentendre, qui m’a paru particulièrement achevée.

Les deux compositeurs canadiens ont proposé quant à eux des esquisses, des explorations. Marielle Groven, qu’on avait pu découvrir avec l’ECM+ il y a quelques mois lors du concert Génération 2012, semble continuer son exploration organique, décomposant les sons de la nature, du chant d’oiseau au craquement des branches sans oublier le souffle du vent pour les transmettre en musique. On reconnaissait ici et là des battements d’ailes, des superpositions de sonorités qui semblaient se déformer (un peu comme l’effet Doppler) et le tout m’a semblé un intéressant prolongement (même si la matière était traitée différemment) de la pièce Warblework de Cassandra Miller, présentée il y a deux semaines par le Quatuor Bozzini, qui explorait les différentes possibilités offertes par le chant des grives.

Simon Martin a expliqué en être encore à la phase exploratoire dans son traitement des textures du quatuor à cordes, dont il cherche à maximiser les pouvoirs expressifs, vocaux aussi bien qu’à détourner les fonctions premières des instruments. Ainsi, les archets glissaient sur le corps ou les chevilles des instruments, les musiciens intégraient de menus objets métalliques aux cordes pour obtenir un timbre qui rappelait par moments la guitare électrique par instants et la pression excessive des archets sur les cordes semblaient dématérialiser le son, rendant l’expérience très proche de l’acousmatique. Il faudrait sans doute ramasser tout cela, mais déjà, j’ai aimé ce passage de l’inaudible à l’audible et cette ellipse qui permettait de revenir au point de départ (juste avant les sections avec objets ajoutés et le traitement forcé des sonorités).


By Seán Clancy in seanlclancy (UK), December 17, 2013
This project had a huge impact on my aesthetic and working method and I am so incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a class act as the Bozzini Quartet

Special mention must be given this year to my time spent with the Bozzini Quartet. On two separate occasions, the first in Montreal and the second at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, I had the great privilege of working with this amazing quartet as part of their Composer’s Kitchen Project. Here I was a participant alongside fellow composers Marielle Groven, Simon Martin and Amber Priestley, as well as mentor composers Laurence Crane and Michael Oesterle. It was such a fantastic experience to get to know my peer composers Marielle, Simon and Amber and Mentors Laurence and Michael on these two separate occasions. A pleasure to hear their music, hear them talk about their music and experience all their little eccentricities and how these filtered into their music. Their music for me was an extension of their personality and it was so heart warming to hear this play out. It was incredibly beautiful to hear their work develop over the two separate weeks and how it was tweaked, refined, rendered and given birth to in high-definition. It was also an honour to work with a quartet so dedicated to our music and so interested in bringing it to life. This was trumped only by their friendliness, hospitality, generosity and genuine warmth. Moreover, it was extremely fruitful getting to see this project through over two separate legs; hearing the pieces grow and becoming more and more refined, developing a strong relationship with the performers and seeing an incredibly polished object at the end of the project at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a group working as hard over such an extended period of time as the Bozzini Quartet. They performed my piece Neue Kraft Fühlend superbly, with the energy and delicacy that it deserves, balancing light and darkness perfectly. I am immensely proud of this piece as I am with this collaboration. This project had a huge impact on my aesthetic and working method and I am so incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a class act as the Bozzini Quartet and I hope our creative paths cross again in the very near future.

Weaving dew patterns with Quatuor Bozzini

By Egidija Medekšaitė in The Sampler (UK), October 28, 2016
I believe that this is a great opportunity for any composer who wants to become the best chef in their musical kitchen.

As a composer, I am exploring weaving patterns in order to transform them into musical language. The use of non-musical data does not guarantee the successful transformation and mostly requires deeper studies and research so that the chosen weaving pattern can be matched with sounding material. For me the Composers’ Kitchen was a great laboratory in which to nurture my initial idea, slowly transforming it into the final composition through the various stages of this project; but let me start from the beginning.

It all started in Montréal, Canada with a meeting of the performers, Quatuor Bozzini, mentors Christopher Fox (UK) and Christopher Butterfield (Canada), and fellow composers Georgia Rodgers (UK), James O’Callaghan (Canada) and Kyle Brenders (Canada). An intense two-week period involved rehearsals every day, revisions of pieces, listening sessions, discussions, and individual meetings with the mentors. It was a great opportunity to crystallize ideas in order to achieve the result that each of was looking for.

For me it was a long journey, because the first sketches I made did not resemble either the primary idea nor the weave; they were too reliant on narration and illustration. But in Montréal I was able to write this piece in “real time”, every day producing new sketches, which were then rehearsed in various tempos, trying out different techniques, working on dynamics and details, discussing the sounds that resulted from each sketch. Each rehearsal was recorded so that at the end of the day it was possible to listen again and to create something ‘new’.

I felt that it was a luxury to work on one particular composition and to have so many possibilities to try things, working out what could best suit my idea. After three different versions and intense conversations with musicians and mentors, I finally found the right tools and solution. I must admit that this period of searching was challenging, but the support from the members of Quatuor Bozzini and mentors made me realise that with the best team on your side it is possible to discover your true artistic individuality and perfect your vision.

After each rehearsal of our own pieces, we could listen and gain experience from colleagues’ compositions, and how their ideas are developed, what kind of sound or timbre they are looking for. At the end of this first stage each of us had created individual compositions, all very different stylistically and aesthetically, and these were all performed in a concert in a loft space in Montréal.

For the second stage we moved to Banchory, a small town in Scotland. This was probably a more relaxed experience for me. I had had a five-month break from the piece, an ideal time to leave it for a while, and after a discussion with Christopher Fox I was able to make final revisions and complete the composition with fresh ears. This time, I knew in advance what my piece was all about. Megh Malhar is based on the organza weave, a weave whose structure is invisible because of its thin silk threads. It is striking for its sheer surface and transparency, a feature which I felt united it with the harmony of the Indian raga. During the second stage, I experimented with the final form of the music, refining the specific character of the piece. It was a special time for me, cooking each day, meeting after rehearsals and concert for dinner in one of the cottages where we stayed, walking in the forest, visiting Aberdeen, sight-seeing, having informal conversations, being part of this family.

For me the Composers’ Kitchen was a great opportunity to concentrate on one particular piece. I think that without this possibility, and especially such a close connection with the professional performers of Quatuor Bozzini, mentors and composers, I could not have created the piece which emerged as the final result. I believe that this is a great opportunity for any composer who wants to become the best chef in their musical kitchen.

Creating a new work with Quatuor Bozzini

By Kyle Brenders in Soundstreams (Canada), June 23, 2015

Our Artistic Associate Kyle Brenders recently spent a week in Montreal, participating in Quatuor Bozzini's Composer's Kitchen. He wrote a blog post for us about his experience, and how he composes.

Beyond what I do here at Soundstreams, I attempt to have a life as a practicing composer (and performer, but that’s a story for another blog post). I am constantly searching to find a balance between my own artistic practice, and that which I’m working to put on stage at Soundstreams. Some might say that my work as a creative musician is my second job, because I do it after I get home from Soundstreams. But I sometimes feel that Soundstreams is my second job, there to support my habit as a musician! All kidding aside, I recently participated in an emerging composer workshop—a departure from being the workshop designer, which is part of what I do at Soundstreams.

I created a new work for string quartet as part of the Quatuor Bozzini's Composer's Kitchen. The Composer's Kitchen is an annual musical “laboratory” conceived as an artistic "playground,” where composers workshop their new composition with direct support from the Quartet, as well as two composer mentors. The Composer’s Kitchen happens in three stages:

1) A workshop in Montreal and performance of the new work;

2) A few months of private revisions;

3) Another workshop in London, UK, and concert of the final works.

The workshop had four participants that were selected through an application process: two composers from Canada and two from the United Kingdom, supported by the amazing UK organization Sound and Music (you can read about the other participants here). The two mentor composers were Christopher Butterfield from Victoria, BC, and Christopher Fox from London, UK.

This workshop reminded me of how intense the process of creating a new work really is. In my own compositional practice, I know I’ll be performing much of the music that I write. Because of this, I tend to leave a lot of musical information out of the score. Dynamics, articulation, bar-lines, time signatures, instructions for improvisation, and sometimes even the duration of notes, are aspects of the score that I leave out, and figure out either in real-time during the performance, or through the rehearsal process.

I wasn’t going to be performing this new work, so I needed to create something clear and precise. However, I don’t believe in creating a score, handing it over, and expecting the piece to be performed directly as it appears on the page. I love openness, which requires the performers to make their own decisions. I love facilitating surprises for the performers as they play the music, and also for me as the composer of the work. This can create complications when working with musicians used to scores that have the composer’s instructions clearly written on the page. I knew this would a challenge going into this workshop, but I also knew that the members of Quatuor Bozzini would be game for anything.

I had a breakthrough on my piece when another workshop composer mentioned that she views the compositional process as “creating an article of clothing”—composers have to put the pieces of thread together for the performers. I am slightly different in my work—I provide the performers with the buttons and thread, but they have to create the shirt. The materials I provide the performers with create specific musical events, but how each event progresses through time will be determined in each performance. This idea is also where my piece got its name: sewn.

You can see a section of the score below and listen to how it’s all put together. There is a main set of materials that begin the section, and then each player is free to move through their own musical materials. Each player receives only their subsections, separate from the other four players.

My music has a quirkiness that I encourage. I recently played with Bobby McFerrin at Roy Thomson Hall, and one thing he stressed was that everyone needs a level of quirkiness in their everyday, and suggested 10%. I think I’m there with this piece. The Quartet really explored the material with curiosity and wit. But remember, this is only one performance, and one way through the material. Each time the Quartet performed my piece, they created a new version. My music isn’t about capturing a final, flawless performance, but capturing the moment the musicians are presently in.

Another amazing aspect of this workshop was collaborating with the other participants. They each created incredible pieces that inspired me to work harder (you can hear one of them here). Seeing another composer’s music being work-shopped is one of the joys of this process. I love watching how people put music together, hearing them describe what they’re doing, and seeing how the performers respond. It’s this joy of creation that made me first want to make music, and continues to drive me every day. Luckily, this workshop has a second stage, where we all come together again. I’ll write again in February after the third stage of the workshop, which will include a performance of the work in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Embedded: Composers Kitchen 2015

By Georgia Rodgers

In June I took part in the Quatuor Bozzini’s Composers Kitchen workshop in Montreal. What a wonderful experience, and what luxury to have so much time with QB. I can’t thank them all enough for their help, patience and encouragement.

It was great to get to know each of the four composers (Egidija Medeksaite, Kyle Brenders, James O’Callaghan and myself) and two mentors (Christopher Fox and Christopher Butterfield) who provided invaluable advice. It was a privilege and an illuminating experience to be in the room while each of the (entirely different) new pieces took shape.

I wrote a new work called Three pieces for string quartet which, as the name suggests, comes in three movements each of which focuses on a different aspect of the instruments’ sound: noise/pitch, resonance, friction. There’s a recording below.

Thank you so much to Sound and Music for enabling me to take part in this project.

Gaudeamus Muziekweek - Deel 2 (Concert Recensie)

By Ben Taffijn in Nieuwe Noten (Netherlands), September 9, 2016
The sounds are remarkably solid and compacted in the string quartet Between Blue, partly because he regularly makes the entire quartet playing the same musical line, make it sound like one instrument.

[…] Tijdens de twee concerten in de avond staan drie genomineerden centraal, de uit Taiwan afkomstige Shih-Wei Lo, de Amerikaan Anthony Vine en de Canadees James O’Callaghan. Quatuor Bozzini speelt in TivoliVredenburg van alle drie de componisten een stuk, Ensemble Modelo62 brengt werk van Vine en O’Callaghan.

‘R[o/u]LE (s) ’ van Shih-Wei Lo is evengoed een stuk voor strijkkwartet als een stuk voor slagwerkensemble. Vooral de twee violisten krijgen de nodige taken erbij van deze componist. Nu is dit niet nieuw in de moderne muziek, componisten als Stockhausen, Crumb en Cage gingen Lo voor, alleen zat daar ongetwijfeld niet dezelfde gedachte achter als bij Lo. Lo is als Taiwanees bijzonder geïnteresseerd in het begrip identiteit. Niet zo gek natuurlijk als je de geschiedenis van Taiwan kent. Het incorporeren van andere instrumenten in een strijkkwartet heeft voor hem dan ook een symbolische lading. Dat is natuurlijk allemaal heel interessant maar de grote vraag is natuurlijk altijd weer: weet de componist zijn ideeën ook goed te verklanken? Lo heeft zijn stuk opgebouwd uit losse fragmenten, verschillend in intensiteit, volume en dynamiek en gescheiden door stiltes, als kralen aan een ketting. Bijzonder daarbij is hoe hij de Chinese muziek verweeft met de westerse klanken. En de toevoeging van percussie levert soms verrassende effecten op. Maar de toevoeging van diezelfde percussie, veel percussie, maakt het stuk ook wel wat onsamenhangend. De indruk ontstaat dat Lo wel erg veel wil in twaalf minuten.

Van James O’Callaghan krijgen we deze avond een completer beeld omdat zowel Quatuor Bozzini als Ensemble Modelo62 een stuk van hem spelen. O’Callaghan is als componist bijzonder geïnteresseerd in het wezen van muziek versus geluid. In zijn stukken, en dat geldt zowel voor ‘Pre-echo (after empties) ’ als voor ‘AMONG AM A’, speelt hij overduidelijk met dit gegeven. Wat is (omgevings) geluid? Wat gebeurt er als ‘ongewenste’ geluiden deel gaan uitmaken van de muziek? En dezelfde vragen stelt hij zich met betrekking tot voorwerpen. Wat is een muziekinstrument? En wie bepaalt dat? Op zich natuurlijk interessante gedachten. Absoluut niet nieuw dat moge duidelijk zijn. De experimentele muziek trekt zich reeds decennia niets aan van de zogenaamde grenzen tussen geluid en muziek. Daar heerst veeleer de gedachte dat een bepaald geluid muziek genoemd kan worden, als het past binnen het geheel. Het gaat veel meer om de context, dan om het geluid an sich. En daar, bij dat begrip context, wringt bij O’Callaghan de schoen. Het is natuurlijk leuk bedacht om twee van de vier leden van Quatuor Bozzini in de weer te laten zijn met een schepje en een met zand gevulde bloempot, maar de vraag is wederom: voegt het wat toe? En dan is het antwoord “niets”. Sterker nog, het leidt af. En in ‘AMONG AM A’ laat hij de musici al te regelmatig obsessief hun stoel verschuiven als onderdeel van de muziek. Eén keer is leuk, twee keer gaat ook nog wel, maar dan wordt het een gimmick, en dus irritant. Bij O’Callaghan ligt het er allemaal zo dik boven op dat het kinderachtig wordt. Wil je ‘andere geluiden’ incorporeren in je muziek? Wil je het begrip vervreemding toepassen? Prima, maar doe het dan wel subtiel, laat het van toegevoegde waarde zijn, je compositie versterken. O’Callaghan bereikt helaas het tegenovergestelde.

Wat dat betreft gooit Anthony Vine hogere ogen. De drie stukken die we voorgeschoteld krijgen, ‘Between Blue’, ‘From a Forest of Standing Mirrors’ en ‘For Agnes Martin’ horen alle heel nadrukkelijk tot zijn œuvre en bezitten een grote mate van overeenkomst in stijl. Hij zegt zelf over zijn muziek: “Voor mij is geluid een fysiek object. Ik benader muziek met een sculpturale blik. Het is een visueel aspect dat een verscheidenheid aan vormen kan aannemen.” Vine laat zich voor zijn stukken inspireren door uiteenlopende kunstvormen als dans en schilderkunst maar zijn output vertoont opvallende overeenkomsten. Bijvoorbeeld in die benadering van geluid als fysiek object. De klanken in het strijkkwartet ‘Between Blue’ zijn opvallend massief en verdicht, mede doordat hij regelmatig het voltallige kwartet dezelfde muzikale lijn laat spelen, als één instrument laat klinken. En in ‘From a Forest of Standing Mirrors’ voor piano, contrabas en slagwerk creëert hij een bijzondere klankwereld met de combinatie piano, gongs en vibrafoon. De muziek van Vine heeft ook iets kils, afstandelijks en onpersoonlijks. Het gaat bij hem maar al te vaak om thema’s als eenzaamheid, vervreemding en leegheid. In ‘Between Blue’ vangt hij die leegte perfect. Verstild, ijl en met een soort van desolate mysterieuze klank weet hij de luisteraar te vangen. Het werk van Vine kent dan ook zeker parallellen met elektronische muziek. En dan niet qua instrumentatie, want in de drie genoemde stukken zit vrijwel geen elektronica, maar qua vorm en inhoud. De massieve structuren, de microtonale stemming, de gerichtheid op klankkleur vinden we in de elektronische muziek eveneens vaak terug. Dat Vine tevens een groot liefhebber van Morton Feldman is, hoeft evenmin te verbazen. De uitspraak van Feldman die Vine zelf citeert is dan ook onverkort op zijn werk van toepassing: “Er is een bijzonder citaat van Feldman: “Een gedeelte van mijn muzikale denken is om geluid zonder bron te hebben…Mijn stukken falen als iemand kan zeggen: ‘Ah, daar is een trombone, daar is een hoorn.’ Ik wil graag dat de instrumenten…anoniem worden.”