Anima, for Augmented String Quartet
One of today's biggest trends is augmented instruments. And, among augmented instruments, the string quartet is doubtless the one that wins over the most composers. The principle is simple: with the help of transducers (small loudspeakers that transmit the vibration of their membranes to the surface on which they have been places) we transform a familiar instrument into a tool for sound diffusion. For composers, the main interest of this system is to blend the acoustic sound sources and the electronic sounds (and to play with the theatrical aspect of an instrument that makes sound without the musician playing it), but also to take advantage, for the electronic sound, of the timbral qualities of the instrument's sounding board.
In Anima, Ashley Fure takes one more step-pushing logic even further, while giving the musician a sort of control on the augmentation. How? Simply by making the transducers, habitually attached to the sounding board, mobile. Like a stethoscope that hears the body’s secrets, the musicians move the transducers from one point to another, from the surface of their instruments, from hearing to touch, from the back of the bow, injecting animated sounds into the heart of inanimate objects. As the work develops, a volatile chain of sonorous feedback (due to the sound capture by microphone and the acoustic response of the instruments to the transducers) is added to these stethoscopes, threatening to take over the virtuosos performing.
What are these new instruments then? Are they golems, simple pieces of clay that a magic formula can wake up? Or monsters like Frankenstein’s: intended to take the power of their creator?
"Anima," concludes Ashley Fure, "is a quest for electric blood, for digital respiration, for a bestial future in the very heart of the string quartet tradition…"
Previous Projects at IRCAM
Ply(2014) for electronics, ballet music created in collaboration with the choreographer Yuval Pick
Tripwire (2011), kinetic installation, created in collaboration with the visual artist Jean-Michel Albert
Wire & Wool (2009) for cello and electronics
By Jérémie Szpirglas, journalist and writor