• Emily Howard
  • shield (2021)
    (for string quartet)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)

Commissioned by Het Concertgebouw, the Fidelio Trust, the Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust, the RNCM Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRiSM) and the Piatti Quartet.

  • str4tet
  • 15 min

Programme Note

shield (2020-21) is a work for string quartet lasting around 14 minutes.

The piece arose through close collaboration with the Piatti Quartet as we experimented with AI-technology PRiSM SampleRNN developed by PRiSM, the Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester, as a catalyst for acoustic composition. 

As part of the process, I invited the Piattis to record selected excerpts from my earlier string quartets ‘Afference’ and ‘Four Musical Proofs and a Conjecture’, alongside new materials I had written specifically for the recording. These recordings were then combined to form an audio dataset for the AI software to train on, and I then spent time with the generated audio it produced in response. The results were intriguing and I was especially drawn to seemingly bipolar abrupt alternations between music that was almost silent, glitchy, pitchless; and then suddenly full-on string quartet fortissimo complexities, impossible to notate (or perhaps just close enough for me to want to try). shield, an acoustic work, takes inspiration from these AI-informed musical gestures.

shield is dedicated to the memory of Lucy Hale.

Emily Howard, October 2022



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