Les Règles ont déjà pensé à tout

ENS.2013.1 | 17′
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, 2 Harps, Violin, Viola, Cello


Les Règles ont déjà pensé à tout

Stephen and Timothy Quay are my favorite living filmmakers. Identical twins originally from Pennsylvania, they have lived in England for over forty years creating some of the weirdest and most beautiful films ever made. 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 interests and obsessions mirror my own. This composition, Les Règles onto déjà pensé à tout, takes its title from a quote by Robert Walser found in Institute Benjamenta, which may be 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, in this work I combine jittery, stuttering rhythmic ideas with independent lines of harmony to produce a hesitant musical continuity.

One musical idea I especially wanted to explore 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 in-betweenness seems related to the way in which the puppets dwelling 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 seventeen minutes.