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Lully Loops by DAVID BRUCE


100 years ago, the advent of audio recording changed the way we all relate to music forever. Music used to be extremely special — something you could only hear when somebody played it right in front of you. Somebody like, say, Jean Baptiste Lully, who conducted and composed for one of the first ever string orchestras at Louis XIV’s Versaille in France. Thanks to recordings, we all became Louis XIV and could listen to this music in our palaces and play it on repeat whenever we liked.

Another revolution in this relationship has, I believe, happened over the past 20 years ago, with the rise of the internet and with the increasingly easy access to sophisticated digital technology. We now all have the entirety of music at our fingertips, from that made by a remote tribe in what’s left of the Amazon jungle, through to countless recordings of the most obscure composers of the past. And we can do anything we like with it, things the composers themselves would never have imagined — not just play it back instantly, but play it backwards, loop it over and over, chop it into little pieces and re-assemble it. I think composers are only starting to come to terms with what this means for music. One result is that we all have to be much more careful in recognising our sources. Where composers of the past might have borrowed liberally from a piece of folk music — or even another composer — composer doing that today will quickly find themselves exposed to a note-for-note comparison video on YouTube (and this isn’t entirely a good thing, but that’s another story).

The idea for Lully Loops started with a tiny fragment of Lully’s Chaconne from Phaëton. It’s an insignificant blink-and-you-miss-it moment in the middle of the piece, but for some reason, I found it incredibly touching. I pulled down a score from the internet, wrote out the phrase and started playing around with it.The music that I developed from that little phrase seemed to keep hold of the emotion I’d originally felt and extend it into a movement of several minutes. It’s a slightly macabre metaphor, but I felt almost as if I’d caught a piece of Lully’s soul — a soul shard as Douglas Hofstadter touchingly calls it — and somehow kept it alive, flickering inside my own net of notes.

The second movement takes an extended Gavotte passage from Lully’s Armide and throws it in a washing machine of rhythm until it becomes something quite different. The original tune is squashed into a 3 beat pattern, inside a 5 beat pattern which itself shifts back and forth across the barline. The movement as it ended up became incredibly difficult to notate — if I made it easier for one player it became almost impossible for another — I’m still not entirely confident I found the best solution.

The third movement distorts things in a different way — this time it’s not Lully, but his father-in-law Michel Lambert, whose song “Ombre de mon amant” is slowed right down and eventually played entirely in reverse (as if the tape recorder were running backwards) in a technique I associate with the internet movement known as Vaporwave. Somehow the process of distortion heightens the sense of distance from the original and creates a powerful, even disturbing effect, filled with nostalgia, longing, and perhaps darker undercurrents.

Finally, the fourth movement plays with ‘cut and splice’ methods of musical creation, chopping Lully’s Gigue pour Bacchus from Intermedes de Xerxes into a thousand fragments and re-assembling them to give a fun and uplifting ending. It’s said that Lully’s orchestra felt so shockingly fresh and uplifting in its day, that it hearing it had the power to cure people of their melancholy. My hope is that in a very different way and in a very different world, Lully Loops manages, at least to some small degree, to achieve something of the same effect.

Press / Latest Reviews / Sep 2023
Ekkehard Ochs

Bruce uses motifs and theme fragments from three works by the great Frenchman and that of his father-in-law Michal Lambert to – as he puts it –"play" with them and develop his own from them. And in four different ways. Prerequisite: the material had to touch him and thus encourage extensive processing options:"slightly macabre" in the first movement ("Soul Shards "), completely changed and thrown"into a washing machine of rhythm" ("Earworms"), very distorted because read backwards and associated with the Internet movement Vaporwave (" Vaporwave Loops") or finally - designed as a "humorous and uplifting ending" and "dismantled into a thousand fragments and reassembled" (" The Cure for Melancholy "). What's more: Bruce has texts read out (via tape) before each sentence that explain and justify the respective intention. And then it becomes clear that he is not just interested in"playing around" with material. He asks (himself) questions that have to do with the nature of music and (indirectly) especially Lully's , with the effect of music, its ability to learn something about its respective creator. Last but not least, it's about the effect of music and the composer's desire to also have his music - like Lully's, albeit in a different way – spreading harmony and giving joy.

With a view to the reactions of the audience in Ulrichshusens Concert Barn seemed to be a complete success. Stormy applause for music that does without the"horror" of subversive modernity. Bruce sticks to important basics of baroque music-making practice, of course variably"alienated", imaginatively transformed, enriched with new processes such as minimal music and very clearly living from concise (traditionally baroque) metric-rhythmic models. He plays solo, chamber music, and orchestral, establishes sound surfaces that are attractive and have exciting motor skills, and knows varied phases of expression between delicate pizzicato continuous structures, delicate string sounds and sometimes a snappy musical mood. Its greatest advantage is actually a predominantly musical character. It appeals without being ingratiating in terms of sound, it is modern and yet somehow familiar, it activates, mobilizes, and makes following musical processes that seem to be stimulating and new an attractive task for the attentive ear. It is fitting that the solo part appears to be integrated into the orchestral action rather than as a literally outstanding part of the whole. Let us speculate that this would have to do with the nature of the dedicatee Daniel Hope is also particularly keen on being part of a larger whole. And this larger whole brought a lot of joy to this special evening.

Online Merker / Sep 2023
Werner Häußner

"Lully Loops" is a clever-playful capriccio that places fragments of the Italian-French composer and violinist into new musical contexts – it's also a transformation into its own language.

The four parts are each introduced by a cracklingly recording.. The themes of Lully clearly emerge and repeat themselves like "loops". In the first part, variously articulated harmoniously consonant and tension-rich sustained notes engage with the theme; in the second, pizzicati comment on a more dance-like fragment. In the third, tones blossom from a kind of drone, condensing into a melody. The fourth reveals Lully's clear rhythm and ends with a mood drop, as if a tape is being slowed down. A harmonically dense fabric that certainly provides playful joy and captures the listener not without humor, delighting in discovery and alienation, but also with a hint of winked-at nostalgia.

Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten / Sep 2023
Mareile Hanns

a composition called "Lully Loops" that was specially commissioned for this occasion from the British artist David Bruce. In this work, brief sequences from works by the baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, who celebrated triumphs at the French court of Louis XIV, return again and again in four movements. Bruce takes them apart, interlocks them anew, changes rhythms, structures, mutual ones instrumental references - an effective kaleidoscope that listeners could also enjoy without any worries. Bruce also created the illusion of having created "an electronic work for analogue orchestra" (Daniel Hope). The orchestra and dedicatees played the piece with a great sense of its color and the attractive compositional twists, with dedication and attention to detail. The audience was very impressed.

Neue Westfalische Bielefeld / Sep 2023

It's incredible the colors that can be coaxed out of a string orchestra.


for Violin & String Orchestra

Violin solo, 6,5,4,3,2

Duration c.27mins
Composed 2022-2023
First performance Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Tonhalle, Zurich 3 Oct 2023
Commissioned by Zurich Chamber Orchestra

Future Performances

Past Performances

  • Sept 6 2023
    Bielefeld, Germany (Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra) (German Premiere)

  • Sept 7 2023
    Flensburg, Germany Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival (Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra)

  • Sept 8 2023
    Brunsbüttel, Germany Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival (Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra)

  • Sept 9 2023
    Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany (Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra)

  • Sept 10 2023
    Festspiele MV, Ulrichshusen, Germnay (Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra)

  • Sept 12 2023
    Essen, Germany (Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra)

  • Oct 3 2023
    Tonhalle, Zurich (Daniel Hope, Zurich Chamber Orchestra)

Related Posts

 • Lully Loops with Daniel Hope (8/28/2023)


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