Violin Duo, 1996
János Negyesy and Päivikki Nykter, violins

excerpt from CD:

Audio available from iTunes (track 25), click here

Masculin-Feminin takes its title from the 1968 Jean Luc Godard film of the same name. In Godard’s dialogue, many phrases are later repeated, sometimes in identical situations, sometimes in opposite situations, and sometimes in unrelated ones.  With such an organizing principle, each word takes on multiple meanings.  In a sense, I transcribed this technique to organize idiomatic violin gestures.

When János, Päivikki, and I decided to work together on a piece, Godard’s film became relevant, in part because of the multiple meanings the films title could have.  The piece became a struggle of opposite attraction; two parts creating a whole.  Both violins are limited to first position stopped notes and natural harmonics, no artificial harmonics ever appear in the score.  To spice up the pitches of the harmonics, the first violin is retuned in fifths a quarter tone sharp (high E down to low G 3/4 tone flat) and the second violin scordatura is in fifths a quarter tone flat (high E 3/4 tone flat down to low G).  This scordatura makes their gestural similarities sonically dissonant and always slightly incompatible.

Masculin - Feminin

Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, 2013

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