String Quartet No.4


string quartet with live electronics
Electronics with Live Performers, String Quartet
Commissioned for the Arditti Quartet by Ars Musica, IRCAM and the Ultima Festival, with the support of IRCAM where the electronics were made
First Performance
11.03.03, Belgium, Ars Musica Festival, Flagey, Brussels: Arditti Quartet/technicians from IRCAM

Score and parts on special sale from the hire library. A link to the electronic resources necessary for public performance will be supplied by the hire library upon request (

Programme Notes

This work is for string quartet with elaborate real-time electronics. The sounds of the players are diffused in space with thematic rhythms so that the flying spatialisation is integral to the structure, part of the transformation process. Using IRCAM's SPAT programme (with the help of GIlbert Nouno)it is possible to locate the sounds at any distance, at any point. This point can then be moved, like a living presence; the sound aquires an attribute closer to life, but unseen. When this movement is regular, like the repetitions of dance steps, for instance, the 'presence' begins to take on a character, a personality (though still invisible). Such music becomes a metaphor of subtle modes of being, from 'astral travel', to dreaming, to Gaston Bachelard's 'vertical imagination', to Nietsche's flying fantasies in Zarathustra, to buddhist visualisation practices in higher meditation (etc.!). The quartet is the dreamer, the spatialisation the dream... All sorts of psychic metamorphoses are undergone by the string sound; it seems to enter into spaces like the centre of the earth - deep bass transposition - or open empty spaces. Such is the imagined relation of player to the electronic treatment. Formally the quartet is divided into 'cycles'; it is as if several lives are depicted, each dying and being reborn with traces of the previous ones. Repetition, transformation; architecture and narrative; construction, dissolution: these are the characteristics of both autonomous music and what it refers to outside itself. Jonathan Harvey

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'String Quartet No 4' reviews

'... But the real transcendence on the programme came in Jonathan Harvey's 'String Quartet No 4', written for the Ardittis, and another British premiere… ' Read more

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