Once I received a commission for composing this piece for Cuarteto Latinoamericano & Entrequatre, I sought a subject for representing the interspersing that a work for double quartet implied. Each quartet has its own particular characteristics, some of them coincidental but other opposed. Together they multiply the string possibilities by combining resources of bows with that of hands, horse hair with finger nails, stroking with plucking. I thought that a piece for double quartet was a kind of powered quartet, a geometric quartet, a squared-by-it-self quartet…
So, that’s how I came up with the crossword idea, a playing board where two dimensions could create a word interaction area, where the letters could be pivots between two axes, where two strongly interconnected perpendicular realities could coexist.
I drew then, from the trunk of oblivion, my old scrabble board, the very same that I used for learning English during my childhood, willing to play on it a new match against myself.
First I sought a set of words in English that contained all 26 letters, and found the NATO phonetic alphabet. Following by the book the rules of the game, I arranged the 26 words on the board, and inserted short Spanish words in the few blank places that remained. With these Spanish words I composed a haiku and inserted a small puzzle into the crossword, with the sole purpose of amusing enthusiasts of rummaging into the secret intimacy of musical scores.
So it is up to you, dear reader, to discover the enigma hidden into the crossword, but if you’re not remotely interested in such quest, (and/or if you don’t speak Spanish) you can always chose to better decipher the enigmatic technical explanation offered below…
This work is dedicated to Cuarteto Latinoamericano & Entrequatre. Many thanks for your talent and support.
Any given word in any given language can be interpreted as a number, assuming that the alphabet letters are the base digits. For instance, in English A would be 1, B-2, C-3, and so on, so counting from 1 to 26 would be A to Z. Therefore, English language can be considered as a position counting system with base 27, for it has 26 letters plus the space between words, which can be considered as zero.
To start composing I used the NATO phonetic alphabet, originally designed for clearly spelling any letter amongst the NATO different language speaker allies. In order to find the base 10 equivalents to these words, I made several conversion charts from base 27 to base 10, and from there to all bases between 2 and 16.
Afterwards I organized these words in a crossword puzzle aided by a scrabble board, and used it as the main structural blue print of my work. Each box of the scrabble board corresponds to one bar of the score, so the musical material of each bar is determined by the letters within it. As the crossword is a matrix of 16 boxes per side, there are 2 possible interpretations of the board: horizontal and vertical, with 256 (16x16) bars each. From these interpretations the two movements of the piece were created, using the conversion charts for producing the pitches by reading the digits as ascending semitones.
The work begins by using only base 2, but every time one reaches a new row or column the base grows by one digit, so at the end of each movement the base is 16. These changes of base are marked with the changing of pedal notes every half-minute. In order to obtain the pedal notes used for counting the semitones, I listed all the open string pitches and organized them by pairs. The result is that the pedals change every 30 seconds, therefore exploring all the possible intervals formed with open strings.
The first movement is the horizontal interpretation, which suggested a counterpoint treatment, whereas the second is the vertical one, that suggested a harmonic texture.