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  • William Dougherty

Horatiu Radulescu's Fifth String Quartet, ‘before the universe was born’, is a shining example of his radical compositional approach. With an intense interest in creating a rich, numinous sound-world constructed firmly on principles of nature, science and ancient philosophy, Radulescu developed a unique compositional language that breaks with traditional musical conventions. In hopes of illuminating the inner workings behind his often enigmatic compositional process, this article examines various aspects relating to Radulescu's Fifth Quartet: the work's formal construction, with a focus on its notation and overall large-scale harmonic development; the Quartet's rhythmic devices and their link to the philosophical underpinnings that drive the work; the extended instrumental string techniques employed throughout, the sounds they achieve, and how they are executed; and the work's spectral pitch organisation.

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1 Gilmore, Bob, ‘“Wild Ocean”: an interview with Horatiu Radulescu’, in Contemporary Music Review 22/1–2 (2003), pp. 105–22, here p. 120.

2 As mentioned above, each page corresponds to one minute of time.

3 Exceptions: he moves by a third, G to B, between page 21 and 22, and by a sixth, C to A, on page 10.

4 Gilmore, ‘“Wild Ocean”’, p. 107.

5 Franck Mallet, in Gilmore, ‘“Wild Ocean”’, p. 108.

6 The Tao Te Ching serves as the basis of philosophical Taoism.

7 Gilmore, ‘“Wild Ocean”’, pp. 121–2.

8 Mitchell, Stephen, Tao Te Ching: a new English version (New York: Harper & Row, 1988). Radulescu used phrases from the Mitchell translation as titles for his second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth piano sonatas, as well as the fifth and sixth string quartets.

9 Gilmore, ‘“Wild Ocean”’, p. 107.

10Intimate Rituals: works for viola’. Haratiu Radulescu in conversation with Bob Gilmore, Amsterdam, January 2006. Transcript online at (accessed June 5 2013).

11Intimate Rituals: works for viola’.

12 Here we can see, once again, Radulescu drawing inspiration from widely diverse cultures and sources. ‘… I'm very fond of some Japanese temple music and so on – and also Chinese and Korean and Vietnamese music and Balinese. Also African music. But we should not integrate them in music as a gadget, in the way that was in vogue even in the ’60s by Stockhausen and other people. … I think with this very global language of the spectrum, you can be somehow close to some tendencies in those musics …' Gilmore, ‘“Wild Ocean”’ p. 108.

13Intimate Rituals: works for viola’.

14 Gilmore, ‘“Wild Ocean”’, p. 121.

15 Agogic accents were important to Baroque performance practice, especially on keyboard instruments like the harpsichord and organ where the velocity and pressure of the attack does not affect the sound.

16 Radulescu often claimed, controversially, that his Credo from 1969 for nine cellos was the first spectral work written.

17 See Radulescu's indication below each string in Figure 6 as to which strings correspond to which harmonic numbers.

18 Radulescu, Horatiu, ‘Brain and Sound Resonance: The World of Self-Generative Functions as a Basis of the Spectral Language of Music’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999 (2003), 322–63.

19 Gilmore, Bob, ‘Spectral Techniques in Horatiu Radulescu's Second Piano Sonata’, Tempo, vol. 64, no. 252 (2010), 6678, here p. 72 fn.15.

20 Gilmore, ‘Spectral Techniques in Horatiu Radulescu's Second Piano Sonata’, p. 70.

21 Gilmore, ‘Spectral Techniques in Horatiu Radulescu's Second Piano Sonata’, p. 70.

22 Gilmore, ‘Spectral Techniques in Horatiu Radulescu's Second Piano Sonata’, p. 71.

23 Heaton, Roger, ‘Horatiu Radulescu: Sound Plasma’. Contact, 26/1 (1983), p. 24.

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  • ISSN: 0040-2982
  • EISSN: 1478-2286
  • URL: /core/journals/tempo
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