ETUDE (1984)

for solo cello and two soundtracks

This work is a study for doubled-bowed cello, a technique perfected by Frances Marie Uitti that produces rich and smoothly changing harmonic timbres. These unique sounds seemed to parallel those I had synthesized by mapping FM sounds (i.e. those produced with frequency modulation synthesis) onto a smooth spatial trajectory, and this connection became the inspiration for the work.

The work's principal sections are studies based on each of the open strings, from lowest to highest, separated by short "modal" interludes. Both live and tape parts articulate various rhythmic ideas on the pitch of the open string that is also the basis of a double-bow improvisation that immediately follows. This improvisation is accompanied on tape by a blending of the rhythmically articulated timbres into a smooth drone that moves in arcs around the soloist, similar to the circular bow movements. The coda, based on the A string, combines all of the previous trajectories in an homage to this beautiful instrument.

The work is dedicated to Frances Uitti who commissioned it for the North American New Music Festival in Buffalo. Both the tape and live parts were realized with the assistance of the composer's PODX computer music system for sound synthesis and composition and the tape was mixed in the Sonic Research Studio at Simon Fraser University.