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Time Saturday 03. December 2022
19:30 – 21:30
Venue MUSEUM FÜR GESTALTUNG / Ausstellungsstrasse
Ausstellungsstrasse 60
8005 Zürich
Genre Concert
  1. Dafne Vicente-Sandoval
  2. Éliane Radigue
  3. Alvin Lucier
  4. Robin Hayward
  5. Rhodri Davies
  6. Charles Curtis

6:40 p. m. – Introduction

Suitable for all who like to listen for 120 minutes.


Alvin Lucier: «Slices» (2007 – 2012 – 2019)

für Cello und zugespieltes Orchester


Éliane Radigue: «Occam Océan» (2011 – )
«Occam XIII» (2015)
für Fagott
«Occam River XXI» (2019)
für Tuba und Harfe
«Occam Delta XVII» (2022)
für Fagott, Cello und Harfe
Uraufführung World premiere
«Occam XI» (2014)
für Tuba solo
«Occam River XI» (2015)
für Fagott und Cello
«Occam Delta VIII» (2015)
für Fagott, Tuba, Cello und Harfe

Dafne Vicente-Sandoval – bassoon
Robin Hayward – tuba
Charles Curtis – cello
Rhodri Davies – harp


This concert is the musical equivalent to slow food: each note is attended to individually; each timbre is dissected and recycled as its opposite – a highly sensual and meditative process. From the musicians, this demands a virtuosic sensibility for the most minute changes and the role of each sound in the whole. With «Occam Océan» the composer Éliane Radique has begun a cycle that stipulates no clear limits: the pieces can be arranged almost ad infinitum; yet, because they have no score, the pieces are indivisible from the artists that interpret them and for whom they were created.

Ticket also available as a combined ticket with «Live From the Listening Lounge / Noémi Büchi» and «border line club culture X Nyege Nyege» or as part of the day pass.

Co-production: ICST – Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology


Alvin Lucier: «Slices» (2007–2011)
for solo cello and pre-recorded orchestra

A clear procedure defines the form of «Slices» for cello and orchestra (2007). The full range of the cello, arrayed as a 53-note chromatic scale from the low open C string to the high E above the treble staff, is sounded as a sustained cluster by the 53 musicians of the orchestra, each assigned one of the 53 notes, appropriate to register. Thus the lowest C is held by the tuba, the next lowest notes by contrabasses, then cellos, trombones, bassoons etc., and on up to clarinets, oboes, and flutes at the highest notes. Only sustaining instruments are used, and their sustaining is soft but as continuous as possible (short breaths are allowed in the wind instruments). Against this splayed background, the entire potential ambitus of the cello unfolded like an enormous fan, the solo cello articulates a melodic sequence of the cluster in a measured and moderate pacing. With each note that the solo cello sounds, the corresponding orchestral musician holding that note falls silent; and as the 53-note sequence is traversed, the sustained cluster is erased, note by note, finally reaching complete silence. At this point the solo cello begins a different melodic ordering of the 53 notes, and with the sounding of each new note the corresponding orchestral musician begins again, re-inscribing what had been erased until the complete 53-note cluster is again present. This process of alternately erasing and re-inscribing is repeated seven times in all, each time in a different melodic ordering, such that at the end of the seventh sequence the work ends in silence.

Lucier approaches the selection of melodic orderings by systematically laying out a wide range of possible orderings, then choosing a handful that dispose the cluster in coherent patterns. The notion of «drawing in the air» is echoed here in wedge and wave shapes scaled by a particular interval or an alternation of intervals. In the sparse sections when orchestral instruments enter, these patterns give rise to very striking arpeggiations of stacked intervals. In the opposite situations, when orchestral instruments stop, the patterns result in remainder sonorities that Lucier almost certainly did not consciously aim for. In my performance of the solo part I try to use as many natural harmonics as I can, in order to highlight the space of slight difference between the native resonance of the cello, heard through the overtone structure of its open strings, and the unbending rule of the sustaining orchestral instruments in their equal-tempered chromaticism. It is hard not to be reminded of the work of the acolyte, snuffing out 53 candles, lighting them again in a different pattern, snuffing them out again, and so on, until they have been snuffed out a last time.

The orchestra is reconceived as a virtual cello, or as a resonating chamber calibrated exactly to the frequencies that here define the cello. A 53-note chromatic cluster in mixed orchestral instruments is a very complex sound indeed, conforming to none of the sonic expectations we have of orchestras or orchestral instruments. Barring advance knowledge, one would be hard- pressed to identify the source of this sound as a symphony orchestra. And the listener who accepts and yields to the experience of the sound as unattributable may succeed in sustaining a state of not-knowing, not-identifying, throughout the piece, even when only a handful of instruments are playing with the cello. Without extended techniques, without processing or distortion, even without amplification, Lucier has made of the acoustic sound from traditional instruments a site of perceptual uncertainty, defamiliarization, and discovery.

For the present performance the instruments of the orchestra were recorded individually and multi-tracked in order to achieve maximal clarity of timbre and balance. Although they played alone, the musicians were seated at locations on the stage that correspond to that instrument’s spot in the traditional seating arrangement of the symphony orchestra. The recordings were made in the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall at U.C. San Diego, the last auditorium designed by legendary acoustician Dr. Cyril Harris. During the sessions, the experience of listening to only one tone at a time, in long durations, from a wide variety of instruments over a period of days, proved to be a case study in the remarkable acoustical complexity of what we casually think of as «a single note.» – Charles Curtis

Éliane Radigue: «Occam Ocean» (2011–)

«Occam XIII» (2015) for bassoon
«Occam River XXI» (2019) for tuba and harp
«Occam Delta XVII» (2022) for bassoon, cello, and harp / World premiere
«Occam XI» (2014) for tuba solo
«Occam River XI» (2015) for bassoon and cello
«Occam Delta VIII» (2015) for bassoon, tuba, cello, and harp

«I cannot readily admit that there is such a difference, as is usually expressed, between timbre and pitch. It is my opinion that the sound becomes noticeable through its timbre, and one of its dimensions is pitch. In other words: the larger realm is the timbre, whereas the pitch is one of the smaller provinces. The pitch is nothing but timbre measured in one direction.» – Arnold Schönberg, Harmonielehre (1911)

«The ‹river› of Occam, the ocean [okeanos], the great stream surrounding and flowing through the human island; the sense that all of the waters of the world are one, a scattered but integrally linked matter (hyle); and that likewise sound itself must be a fluid magnitude [following the ancient distinction between multitude and magnitude], not bounded by abstract structural or symbolic limits, non-discrete, irreducible to number. [Hölderlin’s concept of river as a ‹master trope› for the course of human culture; but also the physical progress of the river as geological and geographical fact; the river erodes, carves into the land, ultimately consuming it.] The oceanic as immeasurable, as pure space [Olsen in ‹Call me Ishmael›], a void even, defying orientation, supplanting place. Sound as ‹warped geometry› (Hennix in ‹Poetry as Philosophy, Poetry as Notation›), warped by the place that it is in (walls, reflections, materials), as much as by the sounding source itself.» – Charles Cross, Oceanic Sound (2011)

«What a strange experience, after so much wandering, to return to what was already there, the perfection of acoustic instruments, the rich and subtle interplay of their harmonics, sub-harmonics, partials, just intonation left to itself, elusive like the colors of a rainbow.» – Éliane Radigue, The Mysterious Power of the Infinitesimal (2008)

After more than three decades devoted exclusively to creating music on magnetic tape with feedback and modular synthesis, Éliane Radigue shifted in 2004 to the crafting of pieces for live performers and the instruments of the Western concert tradition. The first of these pieces, «Naldjorlak» for solo cello, established a form of collaboration in which composition, performer, and instrument create an identity. Working without score, Radigue invites from the performer a set of instrumental materials and techniques unique to that performer to be shaped collaboratively, under her direction, into a «work». One consequence of this working method is that each composition is to be performed only by the performer with whom the piece was made, into the future, indefinitely.

Since 2011, Radigue has worked actively on «Occam Océan», an interlocking series of shorter pieces for individual performers on acoustical instruments. The title pays homage to scholastic philosopher William of Ockham and his famous «Razor», the protominimalist teaching that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily and that the optimal solution is the simplest one.

As with the process established for «Naldjorlak», a performer comes to Radigue to suggest a personal and distinctive approach to her chosen instrument; if the sounding states that result seems appropriate and compelling to Radigue, a shared process ensues in which the materials are shaped into a coherent piece under Radigue’s direction. No written score is made; the performer relies on memory and real-time confrontation with the dynamic conditions of performance to give the piece its immediate form.

«Occam Océan» began as a series of solos; the first in the series, entitled «Occam I», is for bowed harp. It was made with the Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies and premiered in London in the summer of 2011. An interest in combinatoriality and the multi-layering of pieces, which persists throughout Radigue’s career, here reaches a point of utter profusion. More than seventy pieces now comprise a virtual «ocean» of instrumental forms, spanning solos («Occam I - XXVII»), duos («Occam River I - XXII»), trios («Occam Delta I - XVIII»), and larger groups («Occam Hexa I - IV», «Occam Hepta I») all the way up to small orchestra («Occam Ocean I»). The instruments employed vary from the known orchestral instruments—violin, viola, cello, bass, trumpet, bassoon, tuba, etc.—to bagpipes, birbynė, saxophone, organ, contrabass recorder, and voice. The choice of these instruments rests not with Radigue, but follows from the personal encounters with instrumentalists who have presented themselves to Radigue in hopes of making a new «Occam». Not «compositional decisions» and certainly not exercises in orchestration, but life events.

The ensemble pieces start from the solos, layering and combining them with slight adjustments to optimise the transparency of the combined layers. The fortuitous couplings and multiplications of instruments lead to highly unusual compoundings of timbre, just as timbre, spectral content, acoustical anomalies, and borderline instrumental phenomena drive the content of the individual pieces.

It seems no accident that this combinatorial procedure (and that of the «Naldjorlak» cycle) revisits the «propositions sonores» of 1968 – 1971 in which tapes of differing lengths are looped or repeated simultaneously ad libitum. These works reveal a commitment to formal results that are unforeseen by the composer and that carry within them a guarantee of unrepeatability and incompletability. Indeed, Radigue views the «Occam» series as one that will remain unfinished. Given the number of individual pieces and the unlikelihood of realising every possible combination, Radigue states that «the overall construction...implies, by nature, the impossibility of completing the oeuvre». – Charles Curtis

Photo Credit Yves Arman/Fondation A.R.M.A.N.
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