string quartet and fixed medium

A long time ago, any reference to “new music” in composers of contemporary music made me suspicious. I perceived it as simply fashionable, for it seems “politically correct” nowadays to blend learned and popular music in some sort of dubious mish mash. It also seems like an attempt to attract “young” listeners who have deserted classical music halls. In sum, it appears as a sort of “band-aid” solution to cover a lack of inspiration or craft. But this is because new music often comes across as a simple, incongruous collage, as though a composer thinks he might rejuvenate his style by introducing an electric guitar in his opera, or, if he is of a paleo-avant-garde bent, discover a fountain of youth by suddenly peppering his works with English titles.

With Destroy, I have left myself open to accusations of being a mover, having pre-tensions to youth, and bargain-basement forms of provocation. And yet this work is part of a larger continuum of earlier pieces. An admirer of György Ligeti’s music, I have long been familiar with the two poles of his work, his “clouds” and “clocks.” This terminology derives from a celebrated lecture by Karl Popper called “Of Clouds and Clocks” and represents two musical styles, the first favouring a sense of stasis, colour, and harmony, the other dynamism, rhythm and beat. Destroy is undeniably in the “clocks” mode, saturated as it is with excitement, nervousness, breathlessness, uneasy chords, lopsided lines—all characteristics, in my opinion, that make the allusions in the work to funk, techno, occasionally blues, ragtime, and country, natural. In truth, it would never have occurred to me to write for such a rare ensemble as harpsichord and string quartet, and the gamble seemed bearable to me only by annihilating the anachronism it represented—hence the electric bass effects of the amplified harpsichord, among others, that regularly punctuate the work.

Commissioned by Radio France

Karol Beffa [English translation: C Flint De Médicis, ii-07]