III Kwartet smyczkowy „Grido” (String Quartet no. 3 “Grido”) - Helmut Lachenmann International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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III Kwartet smyczkowy „Grido” (String Quartet no. 3 “Grido”) - Helmut Lachenmann

For me, composing means, if not “solving a problem,” then indeed ecstatically grappling with a traumatic dilemma; confronting the technical challenges of composition (perceived and adopted) so as to bring about a resolution. While this situation, per se, is not new to me, it nonetheless remains alien, for it is in this that I lose myself, and in so doing truly find myself again. I know that sounds enigmatic, yet in different ways, every “problem,” every “traumatic dilemma,” embodies the categorical question of the possibility of authentic music. is concept of authenticity has become questionable because of music’s ubiquity and ready availability. It is administered on a global scale in a civilisation which has been flooded and saturated by music (auditory consumerist magic) and which, because it has become standardised, has been dulled. at questionability is an unconsciously recognisable and suppressed collective reality. It is the exterior of our repressible, yet no less real, inner longing for liberated space of the perceptive soul: for “new” music. 

My third String Quartet reacts to this situation under even more difficult circumstances. With the preceding two works for the same instrumental combination, I faced the game of coming to grips, each time with a different background of experience and certainly with different inner preconditions. The Gran Torso (1972) and the Reigen Seliger Geister (Roundelay of Blessed Souls, 1989) marked turning points in my compositional practice. In Gran Torso, I exemplified one of my fundamental concepts which, rather than orientating itself on the principles of interval-rhythm-timbre, proceeded instead on the basis of turning concrete energy into sound production: a concept which I once provisionally labelled musique concrète instrumentale. From the string quartet, I effectively made a 16-stringed instrumental body which reacted to maltreatment with its corporeality— sounding, rustling, breathing, pressing. As such, the traditional method of playing represented merely a specific variation of the instruments’ overall possibilities. Eighteen years later, my Second Quartet, the Roundelay, could only exceed these boundaries by focusing on a single, developed playing technique: the “pressureless autando,” in which notes function more like shadows of sound (and vice versa: sound, or rather, pitchless murmurs, as shadows of intervallically precise, controlled notes and sequences). It was a focusing (that is, a refining and manifold modification) which, for its part, transformed diametrically opposed countersubjects. Using abruptly crescendoing bowing passages, which virtually sounded like recordings played backwards, in pizzicato soundscapes, a different or differently clattering world of sound and expression actually emerged. With both of these works I thought I had overcome the “trauma” associated with the string quartet, since I had almost reached the exact middle path between the two works; namely, my Tanzsuite Mit Deutschlandlied (Dance Suite with the Song of Germany, 1980), a kind of concerto for string quartet and orchestra, in which I had already worked effectively with this instrumental combination. And now? What does Robinson Crusoe do if he believes his island to have been developed? Does he settle down anew, returning in a self-established ambience to the lifestyle of bourgeois contentment? Should he heroically tear down the establishment again? Should he leave his nest? For him who seeks the way, what remains to do once the path through the impassable has been trodden? 

He reveals himself and writes his 3rd String Quartet, because the appearance of self-satisfaction is deceptive. Pathways in art do not lead anywhere, and most certainly not to a destination. For this goal is nowhere else but here, where friction between the creative will and its processes turns the familiar into the foreign, and we are blind and deaf. 

Grido, “shout” or “crying” in Italian, is a personal dedication to the present members of the Arditti Quartet (Graeme Jennings, Rohan de Saram, Irvine Arditti, and Dov Scheindlin). It also satisfies a request from Irvine Arditti for me to write a louder piece than my two previous quartets. 

Helmut Lachenmann