Composer Bertrand Denzler’s Arc, a two-part work for string septet, is a meditation on the sonic possibilities opened up by, and open to, contemporary advanced string performance technique. The piece was composed for and in collaboration with double bassist/cellist Félicie Bazelaire and CoÔ, a string ensemble put together by Bazelaire for the express purpose of extending the range of string music through the commissioning of new work and the development of string instruments’ technical resources.
Like much interesting new music, Arc represents the realization of a poetics of extended technique. Both of its parts are made up floating blocks of sound densely composed of multiphonics, unpitched noise, slow glissandi, harmonics and overtone patterns thrown off by a variety of extended and conventional bowings. Arc 1.1 is episodically structured as a series of brief events of approximately one minute each separated by several seconds of silence. By contrast, Arc 2.1 develops in a weightier, more cumulative manner. Its 23-minute length is broken in two by a few seconds’ silence at roughly the midpoint; each half is a long evolutionary event of slow harmonic change with a quasi-electronic, feedback-like sound. On both Arc 1.1 and Arc 2.1 the presence of three double basses in the septet gives the piece a virtually omnipresent low undercurrent, felt even when not explicitly heard.