dead wasps in the jam-jar (i) (2014-2015)

dead wasps in the jam-jar (i) – based on J.S. Bach’s Partita N.1 in B minor, Courante and Double – was written for Yuki Namata Resnick.

Commission: Yuki Namata Resnick with the support of University at Buffalo

Duration: 3′

dead wasps in the jam jar (i) is one of four pieces commissioned by violinist Yuki Numata Resnick to nestle amongst the movements of J.S. Bach’s Partita no. 1 for solo violin. Each new piece responds to one of Bach’s dances or its Double, and the full collection (also featuring music by Caleb Burhans, Andrew Greenwald and the late Matt Marks) has been recorded as For Ko and released on innova records.

Iannotta’s piece focuses on the Double to the Corrente, replacing Bach’s running scales with glissandos retaining elements of his rhythmic proportions and directions. Over this loosely Bachian framework is draped a range of noise effects, created in particular by different bow pressures and circular paperclips attached to the instrument’s strings. In this way, dead wasps sounds little like Bach while hinting at his phrasing and melodic contours: his music’s skeletal structure.

Like Bach’s original, Iannotta’s piece is divided in two. Each half begins and ends the same, with the two endings varied only in the type of sustained noise effect used: the first half ends with slow and heavy bow pressure, resulting in a broken, crackling sound; the second adds a series of tinkling, metallic scrunches produced by tapping a thimble on the strings.

Although originating in a short, almost occasional commission, dead wasps has inspired two further works under the same title, for string orchestra and string quartet: testimony to the enduring strength of its underlying skeletal form.
©Tim Rutherford-Johnson, 2018

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