string quartet III

"sirocco dust" (2009)

(approximate duration: 18 minutes) 

Seamen tell us of "red fogs" which they sometimes encounter in parts of the Mediterranean Sea. These showers of African dust, brick-red or cinnamon color, are called "Sirocco Dust" because of the Saharan winds which accompany them. A curious fact is that the dust is also found to consist of some particles whose habitat is not Africa, but South America, the result of a perpetual current of air that flows from southwest to northeast. Just like these red fogs, my quartet carries particles of varied sources: Tango, Flamenco, Qawwali (the devotional music of the Sufis), rhythms associated with devotional drums such as the Batá and the Darbouka, and of course elements of Western Classical music too ... these "particles" (rhythmic patterns in fact) shift and morph over a constant metric tide (a "groove" in threes), so that the conflict between pulse and pattern is framed by the relentless flow of a metrical wind.

This piece is the second in a set of three projected "reinterpretations" of minimalism. These reinterpretations do not focus on the repetitive aspects of minimalist techniques, but rather on the concept of "recurrence" as understood in Indian music. The idea of rhythmic cycles implies development in the sense that what we hear "comes back" rather than repeats. "Sirocco Dust" is a continuous movement of approximately 20 minutes, where the "narrative" is entirely driven by rhythmic transformations. We get five sections (A-B-A1-B1-C) but meter and tempo remain constant for the duration of the piece. All the materials we hear along the way originate from "particles" present in the first few measures. The effect I was looking for was that of a process where change occurs organically, and where a listener would be unable to pin-point the exact moment where a given transformation occurs: an environment with no ripples on its surface. In a sense, music that allows us to both drift and return to it without feeling lost, and at the same time, one that provides an experience that we would also find satisfying in those moments when we are disposed to follow every single note.
Sirocco Dust was commissioned by The Library o F congress in Washington D.C. and Stanford Lively Arts for the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

- Ezequiel Viñao

Live performance by The St. Lawrence String Quartet.

© 2010 TLØN EDITIONS Music Publishers. All rights reserved.

ezequiel viñao

(audio samples)