Original title: Cinq pétites études sur les résonances
English title: Five small studies on harmonics
Composer: Gérard Zinsstag
Dedicated to See Siang Wong and Anne-Catherine de Perrot
Duration: 9 Min.
Year of origin: 2008/2009
Date of premiere: September 9th 2009
Premiere venue: Schulhaus Hirschengraben, Zurich, Switzerland
Muted wires, the third pedal, the silent depression of the keys – so as to release sympathetic vib- rations – have preoccupied me since the Darmstadt premiere of “suono reale, Musik für ersticktes Klavier” (Real sound: music for suffocated piano, 1975) with Christoph Delz: an extreme situation, what with at least 95 percent of the strings systematically and precisely muted with dampers (some of them to the 23rd overtone). It took a good two hours to get ready for the show.
The process is the same for these five little studies, only much simpler, since just five strings are muted (the technique changes merely the nuance of the note, which otherwise remains identical).
The first study, “Toccata interrompue” (Interrupted toccata), begins with a fanfare (senza misura) of
alternating fifths and triads. Prior to the start, however, the performer must use the third pedal to keep the dampers on the five previously muted strings raised. Whenever one of these five strings is struck, it oscillates, alone and free, coloured by the muting. The attitude of this study is quite simple, as is the handling of its material, which explodes along a Fibonacci sequence and multiplies from bottom to top (and vice versa).
The second study, “Entrelacs” (Imbrication), features a weft of complex, irre- gular bars. It moves along very quickly, chatty and agile at a virtuoso tempo. Once again the muted strings play a role, if only sporadically, as in a game. The study comes to a swift close in a virtuosic cascade of notes “à la Ravel”. The third study, “Intermède” (Intermezzo), plays with glissandi arranged polyphonically and subject to a variety of speeds. The performer is permitted a certain liberty in their organization.
The fourth study, “Solennel” (Ceremonial), makes thematic use of the muted strings, as it were. This is subsequently followed by blocks of notes, which explode and unfold an impressive resonant potential by way of the muting of the lowest strings.
The fifth study, “Le jeu des tierces” (The game of thirds), is again freely structured around a Fibonacci sequence. By turns acrobatic (virtually romantic?), the latter thanks to the gradual deployment of conventional gestures, the triads make their way to the study’s muscular coda (with resonances!).