la noche de las noches

seven zenga for string quartet and electronics

ezequiel viñao

(audio samples)

La Noche de las Noches (1987-1989) was premiered by Speculum Musicae in New York City on 13 November 1990.

According to the book of “The Thousand and One Nights,” Gabriel was sent down from Heaven with the Preserved Tablet for the revelation of the Apostle. This became known as the Laylat al-Qadr: the Night of Power or Night of Nights. ‘Zenga’ is a Japanese word for water inks where figures are reduced to a minimal outline. Performed in one stroke, they are to convey the fusion of intellect and intuition. Each one of these seven pieces originates from a "sound-object" that unfolds into a mood or vision. The basic musical material is the same for all zenga although reinterpreted from a different perspective.

The first zenga is a short prelude or introduction.

The second is a study in two-voice punctum contra punctum (note against note.)

Number three is the first complete unfolding of the harmonic field that dominates the piece and of its corresponding rhythmic structure, in this case a North Indian rhythmic cycle or tala.

The next zenga presents the only remaining element to be introduced, a collection of rhythms borrowed from ancient Aristoxenic meters, framed in a five voice polyphony where the first violin plays the cantus firmus and the viola a counterpoint. The electronics come in half way through with a two voice canonic complement and finally the second violin introduces the last thematic voice.

In the fifth movement, Greek meters (bells) and North Indian rhythmic cycles (drums, strings pizz.) coexist in a two-part form.

Number six, the longest zenga, is a six voice passacaglia-like structure where an illusion of movement is created by means of "oblique" polyphony. Each individual voice circles around a motive that remains specific for that instrument. What varies then, is the vertical relationship between the voices as well as the dynamic inflections.

The last number is a simple melodic unfolding of the pervading harmonic field.