ROBERT ASHLEY: STRING QUARTET DESCRIBING THE MOTIONS OF LARGE REAL BODIES. For the past few years I have been interested in the phenomenon of the identity of sounds---how we distinguish among sounds by their causes or origins or meanings. These interests were expressed in various ways in the form of four pieces, called ILLUSION MODELS, which were designs for hypothetical, computer-controlled sound environments. In an attempt to illustrate the ideas of the ILLUSION MODELS I designed performance pieces that were based on the same principles as the hypothetical models, hoping to suggest through technical concepts how the aural illusions might occur in the time domain of music.
From the technical solution to the requirements of one of the performance pieces (extremely precise synchronization of very short sounds) came the idea of the STRING QUARTET DESCRIBING THE MOTIONS OF LARGE REAL BODIES, in which, through the process of mixing together short sounds from differed points of origin in time, a single "line" of sounds of different "identities" is synthesized from each instrument.
There are two kinds of sounds in the STRING QUARTET DESCRIBING THE MOTIONS OF LARGE REAL BODIES, quasi-random discrete pulses from the string instruments (from a particular manner of playing) and those same pulses delayed and electronically modified. The two kinds of sounds (identities) are intermingled, because of the delay mechanism operating on one of them, to form a series of pulses, some of which are "original" and others of which had had their identity changed electronically.
The ensemble factor of the work (a "quartet") is composed not in the actions of the performers---each instrumentalist carries out the requirements of the score independently---but in the interconnection of the electronic components, where the alteration of the sound materials is dependent upon the coincidence of events from the various instruments.
The title comes from the images that kept occurring to me while I was reading "Worlds in Collision" (Immanuel Velikovsky) for the first time, which coincided with working on the STRING QUARTET DESCRIBING THE MOTIONS OF LARGE REAL BODIES. (1972)