BLACK WIRES – étude d'un prélude IV
for piano solo
dedicated to Lorenz Kilchenmann
duration: ca. 7 minutes
The twelve works in the Études d'un prélude series are all based on micromeasurements of timing and volume of Martha Argerich's recording of Chopin’s Prelude op. 28/4 in E minor, recorded in Munich on 22-25 October 1975 and released by Deutsche Grammophon as DG 2530 731, reissued as DG 415 836-2. The duration of Argerich’s original recording is 1'51".
Black Wires — Étude d’un prélude IV transforms the Chopin/Argerich material significantly. For example, Argerich's exact sound-energy (volume) is transferred into the realm of pitch and rhythm: single chords by Argerich between -51.0 and -49.1 decibels become, in Black Wires, an arpeggio of three notes; chords between -49.0 and -46.1 decibels become an arpeggio of five notes, and so on. The loudest attacks generate arpeggios of a dozen notes or more. Argerich's sound energy is re-expressed as rhythmic energy. Other translations also occur, translating one parameter into another.
The score includes the following epigraph, taken from Vladimir Nabokov’s 1948 short story “First Love,” describing a child’s perspective of looking out the window of a moving train: "The door of the compartment was open and I could see the corridor window, where the wires—six thin black wires— were doing their best to slant up, to ascend skyward, despite the lightning blows dealt them by one telegraph pole after another; but just as all six, in a triumphant swoop of pathetic elation, were about to reach the top of the window, a particularly vicious blow would bring them down, as low as they had ever been, and they would have to start all over again."