Quartets for Objects

Media performance, 2015-2016

Series of compositions for a quartet playing various extra-musical objects

Roughly 120 minutes of music

Written for, and premiered by
Kukuruz Quartet, Zurich
(Philip Bartels, Duri Collenberg, Simone Keller, Lukas Rickli) in the context of the music theatrical productions by Ox & Öl, directed by Philip Bartels and Simone Keller, at Architekturforum Zürich

“Quartets for Object” is a series of works written for the Zurich based Kukuruz Quartet. They commissioned Marcel Zaes to write pieces that incorporate no traditional instruments, and so the resulting series is written for four performers playing different combinations of electric toothbrushes, waveform oscillators, everyday objects of the ensemble’s choice (nail files, etc.), and electric metronomes. The series contains quite many pieces, and not all of them have yet been premiered. In their music theatrical soirées “Dinge…” (2015) and “Rindfleisch…” (2016), Ox & Öl Productions and Kukuruz Quartet have premiered a large number of them, and they ended up particularly liking Quartet No. 10, which they subsequently took on tour and performed among others at Unerhört! Jazz Festival Zurich (2018), Columbia University (2019), Brown University (2019), and BoCA Biennial of Contemporary Arts Lisbon (2019).

About ‘Quartet No. 10’
Metronomes, otherwise used to measure or dictate time for practicing musicians or for studio recordings, are alienated in this work. By multiplying the metronomes by four – every performer carrying one of them – their primary hierarchical structure is rendered quite obsolete: who dictates the tempo? In an attempt for a “democratic” timekeeping piece, all four performers are followers as much as they are leaders. With only two parameters at their disposal – tempo and volume – and with only little distinct timbral “voice”, their means of play are limited to be a part of the larger, emergent rhythm texture. Pulse, rather than stemming from an individual performer or metronome, is an evolving composite of the quartet.

In this [see video at top of page] specific performance at Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University in February 2019, every performer of the Kukuruz Quartet recorded their own voice on their phone while in the concert hall, and then played back a mediated version from the adjacent outdoor space. The outdoor performance was made audible to the audible via ambient mics placed in the meadow, while the plastic bags were used as “natural” resonators for the phones.

All photos © 2015 Lothar Opilik