The Balanescu Quartet: “Waltz” (Angels & Insects OST, 1995)
I have an iTunes playlist called “That Feeling.” It’s called that because I have no word for the feeling that the music I put in the playlist instills in me. It’s a really specific thing, though, a kind of engaged lightness that I find especially charged when working at night. You see why it’s difficult to really give it a name.
Strings and piano are the instruments that dominate this playlist—it’s possible there’s just something about the timbre of those instruments when they’re recorded a certain way that appeals to a certain part of my brain and makes it easy to think. But the compositional style is important too—it can’t be too busy. Max Richter, Rachel’s, Dakota Suite and Philip Glass are all in there, as is some of Sharokh Yadegari & Keyevash Nourai’s minimal violin/electronics music, among other things.
Whatever it is, I like the feeling a lot, and the Balanescu Quartet’s “Waltz” was the first thing I ever put in the playlist. It’s a quick waltz, as the title implies, from a soundtrack to a movie I’ve never seen (sounds like an interesting period drama, though, with a lead character who’s kind of Darwin-ish). I don’t know what happens onscreen while this plays, but I also don’t care and can’t imagine it making the music any better.
The Balanescu Quartet are led by Romanian violinist Alexander Balanescu—their first recording was playing a Michael Nyman arrangement on a Kate Bush album, and their first album was a recording of some Nyman quartets. They’ve also paid tribute to the great Romanian singer Maria Tanase—on Angels & Insects, Balanescu employs full string sections and other instruments as needed, and winds up with a soundtrack that stands very well on its own.