Les Règles ont déjà pensé à tout

ENS.62 | mostly 1.23-28.13 | 16’
Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, 2 Harps, Violin, Viola, Cello or Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Harp, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello

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Les Règles ont déjà pensé à tout
Hommage aux Frères Quay

Stephen and Timothy Quay are my favorite living filmmakers. Identical twins originally from Pennsylvania, they have lived in England for over forty years making some of the weirdest and most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Best known for their stop-motion puppet films, they have also made two extraordinary, mostly live-action feature films: Institute Benjamenta (after texts of Robert Walser), and The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes.

I have long wanted to write a piece dedicated to the Quay Brothers, not only because I admire their work, but because many of their own interests and obsessions mirror my own. This composition, Les Règles onto déjà pensé à tout, takes its title from a quote found in Institute Benjamenta, translated as “Rules have already thought of everything.” It’s a phrase well suited to my music, with its carefully preplanned architectures into which I slot various tiny musical ideas.

As stop-motion animators, the Quay Brothers work at the intersection of the mechanical and the organic. Just as dolls and other inanimate objects come to life in the flickering of twenty-four frames per second, I combine jittery, stuttering rhythmic ideas with independent lines of harmony to produce a hesitant musical continuity.

One thing I especially wanted to explore in this piece were quarter tones, the pitches that live between the half steps that comprise the normal chromatic scale. The liminal quality of the resulting harmonies seems to me somehow reminiscent of the uncanny world of the Quay Brothers’ films, and their strange inbetweenness seems related to the way in which the puppets that dwell in those crepuscular landscapes seem simultaneously alive yet not alive.

Les Règles onto déjà pensé à tout is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and two harps, one of which is tuned a quarter tone above the other, and lasts about fifteen minutes.