Listening Log – [Pt. V]- Manoury – Tensio Second String Quartet

Listening Log – [Pt. V]- Manoury – Tensio Second String Quartet

Listening Log – [Pt. V]- Philippe Manoury – ‘Tensio’ Second String Quartet with real-time electronics. (2010). 38 min. Throughout May- July 2020 Listened (streaming) to youtube clip below : Philippe Manoury, Tensio, second string quartet (2010) Dec 17, 2014 On: IRCAM. Editions Durand. Paris. Performer: Diotima quartet. Gilbert Nouno: computer music director.

Philippe Manoury, Tensio, second string quartet (2010) Dec 17, 2014.

My first reaction to Philipe Manoury’s ‘Tensio’ is that it slightly reminds me of some of Ligeti’s work. Perhaps it is the extended techniques, weird sound effects and ethereal sounding harmonics which they have in common. The soundscape is so unusual I can’t exactly understand which instruments I am hearing and how these sounds are achieved. I cannot completely distinguish the string quartet from the electronics. I will do my best to what I am hearing. The piece opens with violins playing in their higher register on top of an electronic sound which very much resembles an extremely resonant triangle. These two sounds merge and oscillate creating a modulating vibration. Next we hear a melody line which could best be described as ‘pleading’ set against electronic ‘droplets’. The violin expands on the top melody which now has some middle eastern sounding flavours over a contrapuntal cello. Over this there are high, airy violins which could be either played by the quartet or they could be electronic. I can’t determine which. These airy melodies have a whistling, ghostly feel to them. The entire quartet is engaged in a musical conversation which is highly polyphonic.

The next section sees the cello play short pizzicato phrases, which it alternates with mournful sustained legato phrases. The high pitched resonant electronic strings are providing a permanent backdrop to the melodic playing of the quartet. I can really picture this composition set to a sophisticated animation.

Out of curiosity I researched the piece listening to it and came across a detailed description to it’s construction by Philippe Manoury himself. I was not surprised to find out that he had superimposed electronic strings on top of the quartet, in essence increasing the number of players and sounds at his disposal. However, I the synthesis method he had used in order to achieve this effect was extremely elaborate and fascinating. I have quoted a translated excerpt below because it is so interesting an inspiring. Copyright obviously lies with Philipe Manoury himself.

‘Synthesis by physical modeling is of a completely different approach than the other existing synthesis models in that it is not provided with classical parameters, such as frequencies, spectra or amplitudes, but gestural models which are drawn. changes over time. Matthias Demoucron’s system consists of a model of a violin string stretched around a resonance box, derived from the analysis of a 17th century violin. This model of rope, which can have different tensions 2from which its height will result, is excited by a virtual bow whose 4 parameters are controlled: the force with which it will rub the string, its speed, its position (on the bridge, on the fingerboard, or between the two), and the height ( equivalent to the position of a finger of the left hand on the string). Each of these parameters is accessible in a window in which temporal evolutions are drawn. In the example below, we can see the user interface in which these different temporal evolutions are drawn.

a- the bluish part, common to all the parameters, determines a user window which will be played in a loop at a determined tempo.

b- The first window (s_force) shows the curve of the pressure of the bow during the reading of this window. This corresponds here to a crescendo and a decrescendo.

c- The second window (s_vel) draws the back and forth movements of the bow on the string, which we call in musical jargon: pulled-pushed.

d- The third window (s_dist) shows the changes in the position of the bow: normal at the start, moving towards the bridge, then towards the fingerboard before returning to the middle position.

e- Finally the lower window (s_pitch) shows a stability of the frequency.

The sliders to the right of these windows allow the values ​​to be adjusted in smaller and more precise proportions than the drawing of the curves suggests:’