31.07.2021 AGAIN Ensemble Modern and conductor Enno Poppe with works by Malin Bång, Brigitta Muntendorf, Olga Neuwirth and Alvin Singleton
MALIN BÅNG: BLOOMING BRUME
I have many memories from my childhood in Sävedalen that are drenched in timbres, sound and tones. Our brown suburban rowhouse had a location close to the highway and the railroad, in neighborhood there was also the ice cream factory and a garbage station. This counterpoint of continuous clouds of noise in the distance constituted our version of silence.
Our intense schoolyard activities appear like an articulated relief to this sounding backdrop; theater performances with historic topics were created, rapid conversations in the secret robber language were exchanged, and I spent many hours of passionate playing of the piano and the violin.
If the gradually changing noise structure is the foundation of the piece, these influential experiences appear as fragments within the noise layers and act like bridges between the sounding environment and my everyday activities. I imagine that we are all marked by the acoustics of our childhood, and that we perhaps unconsciously are drawn towards timbral surroundings like the ones we grew up with. Through the composition process of blooming brume I have happily and with a certain fling of nostalgia been exploring the sounds of Sävedalen with a new precision in my listening.
ALVIN SINGLETON: AGAIN
Again, a chamber orchestra piece for 14 players, was commissioned by the Austrian Radio and awarded the musikprotokoll Prize for Composition. It lives sonically in two worlds, Jazz and Classical. Winds, brasses, strings, piano and percussion cycle through a variety of solos and ensemble textures. Again was first performed by London Sinfonietta in 1979 at the steirischer herbst in Graz/Austria.
BRIGITTA MUNTENDORF: SONGS TWO_LOVE
Two love songs about the desire to be love songs.
OLGA NEUWIRTH: LOCUS…DOUBLURE…SOLUS
Olga Neuwirth’s work locus…doublure…solus for piano and ensemble places the piano in the center of the musical action. The pianist faces an ensemble of two violins, viola, cello, double bass, two flutes, two clarinets, oboe, bassoon, bass clarinet, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba and two percussionists. In addition, there is a sampler which records piano and celesta sounds. Both of the latter instruments have the function of creating a sonic shadow by coloring the part of the solo pianist through a kind of complex interactive doubling – indicated in the title as “doublure”.
Compared to the soloist the sampler is de-tuned at minus 60 cent (rough-ly a quarter tone), producing thus – when identical lines are played – an imprecision in the pitch domain by slightly expanding its “grid”. As the keyboard instruments are furthermore placed apart from each other, namely in front (piano) and in the back (sampler) of the ensemble, the two sound groups are spatially distinct. In addition to this, the positioning of, for instance, one flute, one clarinet and one percussionist on each side the ensemble enhance the spatialization of the music.
Within the context of the word “doublure” such a positioning of instruments already yields an element of change and movement. Similarly, the formal progression of the piece points to the other two indications of the title, locus and solus. With its immense constantly changing sonic richness the work refers to the source of its inspiration: the novel Locus solus by the French writer Raymond Roussel (1877–1933), which, despite the reference to the title, does not provide an imaginary thread for the listener. Rather, this is an example of how the reading of a book can give the impulse for artistic reflection, for the channeling of thoughts into specific directions, out of which may consequently emerge the foundations for a musical composition. Just as Roussel’s Locus solus represents a verbal labyrinth, in which language permanently meanders on and expands towards various linguistic styles, Olga Neuwirth’s composition represents a system of musical meanderings, expanding into a transformative, restless richness of sounds.
Concretely speaking locus…doublure…solus yields a succession of altogether seven consecutive stations each of which have durations between one and a half and four minutes. This order of formal segments is, however, only partially predetermined and thus can be handled with some freedom by the interpreters. Only the position of the two outer movements remains fixed, thus providing a clear beginning and end to the form of the work while the remaining five parts are mobile and freely exchangeable elements. Each of the seven parts of the composition are characterized by distinct playing techniques and figurative structures, but also through specific relationships between the instruments. Certain central elements return over the course of the piece in similar shapes and thus project a tightly knit web of interconnections and correspondences onto the temporal layout. The repertoire of figurative structures and playing techniques is subjected to processes of variation, that surface at different points in the score.
The opening chords are a part of these returning elements. Spaced at continuous and regular quarter note values they start off the piece, reappear at the beginning of the sixth part, and marking the central section of the fourth part. Neuwirth treats the chromatic progressions with their mostly tight intervallic content in a similar manner. These unfold in the soloist’s part, interlocked with the sound shadow of the electronic piano and the ensemble instruments, as well as at the end at the point of transition to the rhythmic unison of the returning (opening) chords. In the third section they re-surface as virtuoso chordal structures or stretched out as pitch chains and glissandi. Additionally, they can be found in the keyboard runs and clusters of the fifth section and the equally virtuoso birdsong-like figurations of the piano solo writing in the sixth part. A repetitive figure of 32nd notes that appears in the second part, returning in the fifth part, colored by the celesta, is similarly characteristic. Through the exploitation of such rapid repetitions the music seems to softly rush by, only occasionally erupting into the forte-areas.
The expansive fourth part is a special case. In Neuwirth’s proposed sequence of movements this part, with its static sonorities, forms the temporal and formal center of the composition. There is a glass-like stiffness here, created by combining rhythmic unisonos, string harmonics, two EBows (electronic pick-ups used here on the piano’s c-sharp and d-sharp strings to produce continuous sounds without overtones), and bowed percussion instruments such as crotales and vibraphone. However, this sound image has an interior motion caused by manifold dynamic processes, enhanced by the lively beatings between the piano and the (de-tuned) electric piano.
Such compositional strategies turn locus…doublure…solus into a scintillating web, displaying its many fluctuating sound and color nuances, whose form is nevertheless held together by its returning and recognizable constants. The term “doublure” does not merely refer to the musical dramaturgy of the work, found in the sound shadow presence of the piano and celesta sounds of the sampler. It also denotes a temporal dimension, in that certain historic periods are evoked through the use of musical allusions. Within the many episodes of the work, there exists not only a permanent refraction of Neuwirth’s own sound world, but also the refraction of the genre of the piano concerto, which is itself perceptible as a sonic shadow.
Stefan Drees Klangschatten und Veränderungen. Zu Olga Neuwirths locus…doublure…solus (Translation: Boosey & Hawkes)