Peppered on Parched Branches
Tuesday 22nd September 2020
by Sophya Polevaya
Scordatura: a portal to alternative timbral vivum.
It is a mechanism that is particularly unique to string instruments, allowing the pitches, say, of the violin's 4 strings to be infinitely interchangeable and alloys of open strings to be forged.
My first encounter with scordatura was through my violin's own serendipitous detuning of its strings after being left for a while in its case. Instead of the uniform, classical aesthetic that standard concert tuning evokes, the scordatura was asymmetric in design. In effect, it had a rococo spirit, with the violin's once homologous open string contours now resembling a bare flame. When I heard this organically formed quatuor à cordes, like a moth drawn to the flame, I found its spectrum mesmerising and it later became the canvas for my composition Within the Flames.
The brushstrokes of the music form a quintet akin to the kinesics of the Lepidoptera species: flitted harmonic sweeps, frissons of singular notes, pizzicato patterings, ricochet jitters and pirouettes of loops. Within it, a quartet of tempers: glowing, flickering, smouldering and calcining. The nonet draws a figure of a moth initially in free flight, spiralling around the naked light in a figure of 8, pulled to the flame's core.
Its curlicue gently uncoiled
the threads of metal,
into a mirrored acanthus leaf.
The bow a sigma.
by this double,
the pair of wings
are now aflutter.
Quatuor à cordes - Sophya Polevaya 2020