Quiet Songs was written for Bastard Assignments’ performance at Aldeburgh Festival in 2019. Written for the composer to perform, it sets live detuned viola against a constructed video part of silenced and manipulated vocal and viola performances by the composer. Starting with a simple mirrored relationship between the two (the viola provides the sound for the silent vocal performance onscreen), they quickly take different but related paths, coinciding here and there throughout the piece.
The viola uses very few traditional playing techniques. Using scordatura (the strings are retuned to F-E-A-G), a wide range of playing positions (near, on and behind the bridge all the way to the fine-tuners and over the fingerboard all the way to the scroll); creating white noise by bowing the body of the instrument in various places), and noise effects.
The audio in the video part uses recordings made in the composer’s studio – most notably via a contact microphone positioned on the window, simultaneously capturing the sound of the performance in the studio and the sounds of the street outside.
If you’re interested in learning about the development of this work, there’s a playlist of work in progress sessions and vlog episodes on YouTube and selected images and updates on Instagram.