list | one by one | cd/dvd
withorwithout (2005-2009)
For string quartet
<< One back
To hell! (2005)
One further >>
I Delayed (2005)

Anton Webern

Audio sample of the second to last movement (with a dead girl) performed by Zephyr Kwartet (NL)

It used to be quite common among composers to quote and pharaphrase each other. Now, stealing from another composer is considered synonymous with an allmost immoral offence against the cultural dictation of originality and uniqueness. Even so, I have stolen something. And very unwisely. I have stolen the most beautiful notes ever written for string quartet: Webern's second Bagatelle from 1913. A golden jewel, of 18 carats. Impossible to outshine. To try to melt something thát unassailable into something new, is utter madness. But that happens to be exactly what I think composing is: madness!

'withorwithout' is a bit like Duchamp painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Or like Raymond Queneau who tells the same short story over and over again in a hundred different ways in his 'Exercises de style'. The quartet peels Webern's Bagatelle layer for layer in ten variations, as if to show what other treasures lie hidden in those original 27 seconds from 1913.

Instrumentation: vl1, vl2, vla, vlc

Duration: ± 10 minutes

First performance: 17 june 2005 in Korzo Theater in The Hague by the Zephyr Kwartet (Tiziana Pintus, Jacob Plooij, Elisabeth Smalts & John Addison)

Written for: Zephyr Kwartet

Commissioned by: Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst


     * without bow
     * with wood
     * without context
     * with unison
     * with air (world's first airquartet!)
     * with mirrors
     * without fuss
     * with natural harmonics
     * with a dead girl
     * with post-neoplasticism

Jury Henriëtte Bosmansprijs 2006: "The piece withorwithout by Mayke Nas (*1972, Netherlands) was selected because of its original approach towards an icon of the twentieth century music. The composition was especially interesting because it made the Bagatelle by Webern even more abstract than it already is. In fact, it is a stage-analysis with exciting theatrical elements."

Reviews: "Cage-like fun was the variation without instruments (and therefore without sound), but wíth the exact instrumental movements."
(Jochem Valkenburg in de NRC, 13 februari 2006)

"The première of the concert was the composition withorwithout by the Dutch composer Mayke Nas (1972), ten concise, completely different variations on the second Bagatelle by Anton Webern. It is a dazzling, ingenious work. Nas has even created an "airquartet”; the players put down their instruments, make expressive gestures with their hands and the audience can imagine the music.
Nas likes extremely simplified, pithy expressions. Her imagination is vivid: crazyness, neurosis, searching for trouble, fun ideas, sex, good wine en goose-liver are the ingredients Nas says she uses to compose.
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila in de Helsingin Sanomat, 16 november 2009)

Benjamin Peled, Annebeth Webb, Jeroen Woudstra & Jérôme Fruchart @ IJ-salon
photo: Emelie Schäfer