Martin Parker

Environment for Stone Violin

Stone Violin

The sculptures of Kassian Erhard spend most of the year in the Austrian Alps in a small village called Pillar near to the Italian border. On the mountainside Erhard creates stone ‘instruments’ including interpretations of trombones, saxophones, percussion and strings all carved from the indigenous rock.

During the late summer of 2002, I was fortunate to spend three weeks living with the sculptor and his family and had the opportunity to write some music for his instruments. Of all the sculptures in his garden, the one that attracted my ears and eyes the most was his stone violin. Not only is the body of the instrument made of stone, so are the strings and bow. The instrument’s sonic properties depend entirely upon the type of stone used to make bow and string.

A gentle scrape of stone against stone reveals tones that are essentially inharmonic, scratchy and very rich in potential for analysis within the computer. The computer software is a reactive environment, which listens to the incoming sound and generates sympathetic resonances. If you feed it noise, you get purity.

This piece was revised for Viol in 2003 and continues to reinvent itself based on input and the liveliness of the space in which it is played.