Nada (2006)
for viola and
electronic sounds
No hay, al principio, nada. Nada.
Juan José Saer, "Nadie nada nunca" (1980)

Selected Performances

Premiered by Melia Watras at Meany Hall, University of Washington, on October 23, 2006.

Performed by Melia Watras at DXARTS Fall Concert, Meany Hall, University of Washington, October 24, 2006.


"Nada" is an homage to writer Juan José Saer (1937-2005), one of the greatest contemporary writers in the Spanish language. The piece attempts to capture the time of Saer's literature, to materialize it, to make time advance in a liminal way. The use of electronic media helps this purpose, transforming the instrument's sound to turn it strangely ethereal. Those spectral transformations occur just beyond our perceptual thresholds, producing a symbiosis between the acoustic and electronic material.

The articulation between silence and sound, stasis and movement, are the support for the dramatic form of Nada, having the spectral territory of the viola as the stage of its performance.


"Nada" was commissioned by violist Melia Watras for her CD Prestidigitation

Technical Note

Scordatura was used on the viola, having its open strings tuned to C3, G3, C4, G4. With this tuning, the pitches of the open strings belong to a harmonic scale with a C2 (65.4 Hz) fundamental, becoming its 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th harmonics. This allowed for a complete integration between the acoustics of the instrument and the electronics, which also explore the harmonics of the same fundamental, starting with harmonic 72nd and gradually sliding down all the way to the fundamental throughout the piece.

Most of the electronic sounds for the piece have been generated with the ATS spectral modeling system (, using its Super Collider interface, developed by Josh Parmenter. Several recordings from the open strings and their natural harmonics were analyzed using ATS, storing both the sinusoidal and noise data in memory. This data was used as a reservoir for the generation of synthetic sounds that extended the spectral qualities of the instrument. Critical-band noise was used in combination with instrumental bow noises to create continuous textures functioning as canvas for more focused pitch constructions.

Audio excerpt from the recording of Nada by Melia Watras for her CD Prestidigitation.
Video excerpt from a performance of Nada by Melia Watras at Meany Hall, Seattle, 10/24/2006.
To request a copy of the score of Nada please contact: juan at pampin dot org

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