Quartet for Strings (2015)

Quartet for Strings is an experiment in the application of haptic virtual instruments in a chamber music setting. Each performer uses a set of two motorized faders that are connected to a virtual “slack” string. One fader is a virtual plectrum, and provides haptic feedback as to the position of the plectrum to the string. That is, the performer actually feels the plectrum move across the string. The other fader controls the tension of the string, thereby changing its sounding pitch.

Two unique gestures become idiomatic with the virtual string. One is where the tension is suddenly released, which creates a long resonance of the string’s fundamental. The other is where the plectrum is pressed lightly against the virtual string, creating a self-oscillating vibration through the string.

The quartet was written as a composed work, with a mixture of traditional and gestural notations. Although the work is not beat-dependent and time synchrony is not a driving force, the piece is not improvised. The purpose of the work was to experiment with how chamber music could be created for an ensemble of virtualized and haptic instruments. It is the first of a planned four collaborative works with Edgar Berdahl, who designed the haptic devices.