…mit schwarzem Glanz takes its title from the final lines of Rilke's poem "Requiem". This phrase, and the melancholy quality of the poem (though not its particular subject matter), converge with the image that informed the creation of the piece, a kind of floating through a crepuscular world, illuminated from time to time by a glimmer in the darkness. Alternatively, the paradoxical title might be taken to refer to the two main types of material in the piece – the subdued, slowly pulsating sustained sounds of the early part of the piece and the frenetically undulating lines of the latter part, which may appear polarised but which are in fact two dimensions of the same idea.
The electronics in this piece consist entirely of immediate transformations of the live sound of the viola – there are no pre-composed sound files, and no score following. The electronic treatments extend the the dark, slightly veiled sound of the instrument in ways that resonate with the twilight image-world already referred to: the opening sound of the open D string has its spectrum slightly compressed to create flat partials that shimmer against the direct sound of the viola; the passage based on the G string begins with a moment of luminosity as the harmonic spectrum is reinforced, but is followed by various "depressions" of the series. The electronics respond to many aspects of the viola's sound – not only pitch and loudness, but timbre and bow noise as well – to create a varied extension of the sound, from a faint halo to the impetuous convulsions that are heard near the end of the piece, when the viola embarks on a reckless attempt to become a violin, before reaffirming its true nature in the dark pulsating surges of the final event.
– John Croft
26 Mar 2012: The Body Electric curated by Michael Norris