Alquitara (2021) for 12 performers with tuning forks and glass bottles

LFCO Ensemble at Lucerne Festival Forward, photos by Manuela Jans / Lucerne Festival

Short introduction and invitation to the premiere of Alquitara.

Commissioned by Lucerne Festival for their new FORWARD festival, where the piece was premiered by an ensemble of Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra on November 21, 2021 in the KKL Concert Hall. 

This piece was inspired by one of the first synthesizers in history, which was  conceived as an experiment on acoustics by German physicist and physician Hermann von Helmholtz and can be found in his influential book from 1863: "On the sensations of tone as a physiological basis for the theory of music"

About half a century before the beginnings of electronic music, Helmholtz attempted to reconstruct the timbre of speech vowels by combining individual sine waves. Using tuning forks, resonators, and electromagnets in his experiments, Helmholtz was pioneering additive synthesis, a basic technique of electronic music.  After reading about it, I was fascinated by the possibility of creating sound synthesis without any electronics. This piece is a first step in that direction.

In Alquitara, a group of 12 performers form a sort of ‘tuning fork choir’ that sings in pure sine tones, a type of sound that is practically non-existent outside of electronic media. Tuning forks are in fact the only acoustic instruments capable of reliably producing such simple sounds, which can normally only be identified as individual components of the more complex sounds around us. Composing solely with sine waves felt a bit like trying to distill a complex substance into a reduced and concentrated extract. This image became the center of the piece, where I have tried to condense my music to its most reduced essence. Hence the title: ‘Alquitara’ is a Spanish word of Arabic origin, which gives its name to an instrument used for distillation since ancient times.

LFCO Ensemble at Lucerne Festival Forward, photos by Manuela Jans / Lucerne Festival