January 27th, 2022 – 20:00 CET | Concert IV

Helga ARIAS (Bilbao, 1984)
Honorary Award of the College of Spain in Paris – INAEM 2016

Milk spilt on a stone (2017)

Presentation by Helga Arias and Ángel Soria (soloist SIGMA Project).

Concert: Milk spilt on a stone (2017). Videocreation by César Barrio.

Conversation between Helga Arias and Ángel Soria. The multiple personality.

Musical Tip: The temporal gesture in the quartet. Ángel Soria.

Milk spilt on a stone (2017) for saxophone quartet.
Commissioned work: SIGMA Project with funding from the BBVA Foundation.
World premiere: 25/04/2017, VII Ciclo de Música Contemporánea of BBVA Foundation (Bilbao).

We that have done and thought,
That have thought and done,
Must ramble, and thin out
Like milk spilt on a stone.

W.B. Yeats “Spilt Milk“

Helga Arias explains, through a process metaphor, the meaning of the quotation that heads her quartet: “The expression ‘spilt milk’ refers in English to a mistake that cannot be corrected. Once a liquid is spilt it follows its own course, it spreads, forks and continues to move forward without return until it disperses and disappears, absorbed by other materials. It is irreversible, irretrievable“.

Indeed, the image of a material that, inexorably, gradually fragments until there is hardly a trace of it left visually illustrates the sound path of the piece: it starts with a dense —although not particularly dense— texture of multiphonics in the four saxophones, which gradually filter in spectral density and timbre color, to gradually take over the breathing space of the full sound of the instrument, and thus open the doors to both extreme frequencies and components close to noise, although increasingly closer to the threshold of listening. This evolution is completely processual, without articulatory cuts that fragment the sound becoming in clearly contrasting blocks, so we can affirm that a certain post-spectral attitude seems to have governed Arias’ creative practices during the composition Milk Split on a Stone.

A remarkable aspect of the piece is its lack of a sense of pulse throughout most of the work. Only in one central passage do brief accented lapses appear, spread among the four instrumental lines, which briefly bring out some underlying pulsation. In contrast, the vast majority of the instruments’ inputs and outputs somehow function as if a sound technician were painstakingly applying continuous fade-ins and fade-outs to each saxophone-recording track. However, this does not prevent certain rhythmic elements from emerging as a consequence of the interaction of the sound layers themselves, or even within each one of them. For example, the microtonal clashes between some multiphonics can give rise, if the physical conditions allow it —given that the musicians are spaced out in the concert hall— to beats, that is to say: frictions between close frequencies that translate into the perception of rhythmic pulsations. These, however, are guaranteed when the saxophonists must play and sing at the same time at heights close to the instrumental note played: the vocal oscillations thus generate from these pulsations to a form of hybridized multiphonics.

(Excerpt from the premiere notes, by musicologist José Luis Besada)

+ info: Helga Arias

Next Concert: Germán Alonso