Quatre (Mallarmé) began as a movement of my musique concrète-inspired suite Portraits-Souvenir, a work-in-progress inspired by the French avant-garde and more obliquely various friends of mine in the arts. The original version of Quatre was built out of a field recording I made of toads and insects noisily croaking and chattering away after a Houston rainstorm. I edited and heavily processed the recording using tools in Ableton Live, my go-to digital audio workstation. Soprano, composer, and visual artist Misha Penton offered to improvise a vocal over the track, and chose for the text an excerpt from a poem by French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, whose words aligned nicely with the various subtexts of the suite. Not only did Misha record two different, wildly dramatic vocal performances, she also recorded herself reciting Mallarmé’s words in French. Other sounds became a part of the piece, including the ticking and chiming of my great grand mother’s antique clock, the furious pecking of typewriter keys, and an abrupt burst of drunken laughter.
So the process was first composition, then improvisation over the composition, and finally composition of the improvisation to create a new composition, or something like that. To my ears, the timing of the sounds, singing and spoken words is both poetic and filmic, and could not have been realized in any way other than the trustful back and forth I enjoyed with Misha.
released October 8, 2017
Composed by Chris Becker and Misha Penton
Text by Stéphane Mallarmé from Le Phenomene Futur (A Phenomenon of the Future), 1875
English translation by Misha Penton
Vocals performed and recorded by Misha Penton
All other sounds recorded by Chris Becker
Mixed by Chris Becker
Mastered by Douglas Henderson