Monash University
7 files

Cruel and Usual

Version 3 2023-08-02, 09:49
Version 2 2023-05-22, 15:48
Version 1 2019-08-27, 21:43
posted on 2023-08-02, 09:49 authored by Cat HopeCat Hope

Cruel and Usual (2011)

for string quartet and live electronics.


Cruel and usual  is a work inspired by an article by the Al Jazeera news service that discusses the use of solitary confinement in US prisons as incarceration rates explode in the USA. In some cases, prisoners have remained in solitary for over 38 years, or may even be children, and the reasons for going in there are not always clear or legitimate. This kind of confinement is known as ‘no touch torture’ by some.
In this work the string players are sampled at certain small moments of the piece, as notated on the score in black, and ‘translated’ into much lower ranges instantaneously, which fade out or grow, and are sometimes distorted. The use of drone – long notes that change very little - acts as a descriptive metaphor for the lives of these that may find themselves in these situations. It was commissioned by the Atticus Quartet.

World Premiere: Sept 2011: Northcote Uniting Church, Melbourne, Atticus Quartet.
May 2012: Art House, Melbourne, as part of 'Metapraxis', Atticus Quartet.

The work was featured on ScoreFollower in 2020.


Cat Hope 'Ephemeral Rivers' (2017). hat[now]ART 200. Winner of the German Critics Prize that year.

"of the five works on the program, “Cruel and Usual” by WA composer Cat Hope was the most successful. Inspired by an article in Al Jazzera News that described the use of extended solitary confinements of adults and minors in US prisons (a practice also known as ‘no touch torture’) the piece has a string quartet each facing straight forward, in a representation of isolation, across the front of a stage. Behind them a computer is operated, sampling and distorting the glissandi of the strings through four bass amps into a growing bass drone. As the background noise and the glissandi drop in pitch so do the lights, achieving an emotionally engaging theatrical and musical synthesis. “Cruel and Usual” shows that “new music” can be both accessible and relevant." Josephine.Giles, Aussie Theatre.

To perform this work, you can download the video on this page and use that as the score. You can also download  the Decibel ScorePlayer  iPad App from the Apple App store, which has many more features such as the ability to network multiple iPads (one for each member in the ensemble if desired), change the speed, move around/drop in for rehearsal, enable annotatoins on the score etc. AirDrop the CruelAndUsual.dsz file on this page to the app.  Instructions on how to use the app are in the software, and there is an 'insstructions file' for the peice when you open it in the App.

The live electronics uses a maxMSP patch (also attached) and requires the following set up, also explained in the attached Instructions File.

This peice is acoustic - instruments should not be mic'd up, however it features a live electronics 'sampling and conversion' of the instruments that is played back through bass amplifiers or sub woofer speakers.

4 x mics - one for each instrument, sent to sound card running MaxMSP, then routed to 4 x bass amplifiers around the string quartet. The electronic musician will sample and manipulate the sound as indicated in the score.


Cruel_and_usual.dsz [score file for ipad app, the Decibel ScorePlayer, available form the app store]

Cruel and Usual.png [score image]

CatHope_CruelandUsual.pdf [score to print as hard copy] [ for the live electronics] [film of the score]

CruelAndUsualInstructions.pdf [set up and reading instructions]


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