08.08.2021 APARTMENT HOUSE Ensemble Apartment House London presents Julius Aglinskas, Ryoko Akama, Erika Bell, Louise Bourgeois, Jurga Šarapova (WP) and Darya Zvezdina (WP)
ANTON LUKOSZEVIEZE ABOUT APARTMENT HOUSE
What distinguishes the work of Apartment House? Does it differ from that of other ensembles for contemporary music?
Anton Lukoszevieze: Ensembles for contemporary music are like mushrooms. They come up overnight, and then they disappear – but some don’t. I see so many things happening in the world, with music, there are lots of new ensembles and there are some older ones. I mean, I suppose 26 years is quite a long time to run a group, isn’t it? But what distinguishes it: well, maybe it’s a boringly organizational thing. I run my own group and nobody else does, there’s no board of members. The organization is just me doing things. Obviously, I have a team of musicians who are wonderful people. I have a pool of musicians, and a lot of them work together often. Sometimes I make it in other instruments that aren’t so regular, but basically I have a pool of very regular musicians. It becomes very good to work together, easy to work together, because you’re like-minded people. I think that’s very important for a group, it’s not just to have a load of freelancers come in and play or a scratch band, you know, people just turning out or being booked. It’s very important for me to have people who feel an empathy with the music we perform. And an understanding, because a lot of the music we play needs to have a very thoughtful approach. And it’s not just about reading notes or interpreting notation, it’s really having a deep empathy with the material. Some contemporary music scores just tell you what to do. And you do it well because you’re strongly trained, and then the end result is hopefully something good. But some things take much more time and a kind of intellectual approach, but also a very substantial intuitive sense of how to perform music. I suppose that these ingredients maybe distinguish – to a certain extent – what my group is like. But I never like to define things absolutely because I like the intangibility of creativity and the intuitiveness and the sense of things becoming something.
“Not: Art Not: Non-Art Not: Both Art and Non-Art Not: Neither Art nor Non-Art.”: to what extent does the quote from George Brecht on your website determine Apartment House’s artistic approach?
AL: I think I kind of answered some of that in my previous response, but firstly I think that George Brecht is one of the greatest composers ever to walk this planet. I think that he enabled so much that’s happening now without being recognized for it. I mean, the whole research of performance in terms of contemporary music, the physical performance and also the use of texts for score instructions, etc. All these seeds are there in George Brecht’s work. And also some other people like Jackson Mac Low and the people associated with Fluxus. The interesting thing about Fluxus is the potential for scores, or the scores that become the potential for sounds, etc. For me, it’s not about art objects though that is obviously a huge part of it. What I like about Brecht’s quote? There is a famous Marcel Duchamp quote: “there is no solution because there is no problem, or there is no problem because there are no solutions.” And it’s a paradox – I mean Brecht even made a book about paradoxes with Patrick Hughes [Vicious Circles and Infinity: An Anthology of Paradoxes] –, and for me music as an art form is a paradox. You can hear it, but you can’t see it. It’s the most intangible art form we have, apart from smelling something (but usually you see the source of the smell, etc.). I already talked about scores, and obviously we often need scores for music to happen, and most composers write scores. The end result is what we’re after. I don’t know if that answers it very well, but I like it for: what is music? What is new music? What is experimental music? What is…? We could try and try and try, but it doesn’t work. And for me the most wonderful thing is to perform and to listen. In a sense, I think that is what Brecht is saying.
How did the concert program turn out? How did you choose the composers?
AL: Well, a lot of it was in conversation with Thomas Schäfer, and he is obviously keen to represent what we do in a program. I think, Thomas was looking at some of the things we perform, the kind of things we perform, but also asking me for suggestions. It was a very nice relationship in terms of putting the program together. I always try and make a program for a performance a bit like a gallery show: you walk into one room and you see something, then you go into another room and there’s something different, or you might go outside and there’s a sculpture. I like to think of programs a bit like walking around an exhibition (but not to quote Mussorgsky too much!). One never knows what that reaction will be, but I just try to make programs that are quite fluid, flexible. There are millions of ways of making a concert program: you can have one big piece with a long duration, or you can have many little pieces. All of these things are possible. In general, I think quite hard about how music happens next to other music and what comes after, what comes before or what is in the program. Of course, some things are determined by instrumentation because you might not want to have seven pieces, all with different instruments, because logistically it becomes a bit silly. But the joy of many of my programs is that a lot of the pieces have an open instrumentation. They are not totally fixed. But in tonight’s concert some of the pieces are fixed.
There are two pieces by Darya Zvezdina in the program – one for string quartet and one for cello and percussion, and they are very specific about the use of the instruments.
Erika Bell’s piece has an open instrumentation with field recordings. And we’re improvising in connection with the recordings.
While being very old, Louise Bourgeois did a whole series of drawings called Insomnia Drawings. I bought an edition of her prints and I looked at them. Some are drawn on music paper. And I thought, “we can play these”. I mean, we can play cracks in the pavement as well, but these drawings just jumped out to me as a score. The Insomnia Drawing we’re performing actually sounds quite terrifying, it’s very ‘psychological’.
Jurga Šarapova is an artist from Vilnius, Lithuania. She works with textiles, paintings and drawings. Furthermore, she makes very strange masks and costumes, but mainly graphic work. But I discovered that she sings when she is working and drawing a painting. It’s not a performance. It’s literally a behavior, it’s her behavior. And once she started recording herself, and she has a huge stockpile of these recordings. So I said: “can you send me some of these recordings?” I found them fascinating and very beautiful. They have a kind of stream of consciousness text that Jurga is speaking or playing or improvising with. And then I asked her to do some of her drawings on music paper. So she made a beautiful score for us. We play the score in connection with her audio recordings. I’m going to continue to work with her, and eventually she will perform with us. But at the moment, I want to keep it kind of magical rather than force the situation upon her behavior.
We recorded Ryoko Akama’s music for a CD [‘Dial 45-21-95’, 2019; published by the English label Another Timbre]. She’s an artist who moves over into different media, and she started writing scores. They are quite unique, and there’s a George Brecht connection in there. In a sense, they’re questioning scores because you look at the score and you have no idea of the sound result. I’m very excited to play her music. We just recorded a whole new album which will come out next year, I think. She’s a fascinating character and artist.
Julius Aglinskas: this is very interesting for me, because both the string quartet and his music in general are very tonal. It inhabits a very harmonic tonal world, and it almost sounds sentimental and romantic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that (if I think about the work of Harold Budd, Peter Garland or a lot of other American composers). But Julius, he’s intuitive. I call it genuine, because if you look at certain artists, they can only make what they do. We could enter into criticism here and talk about certain artists which are not really inhabiting their work. They’re just producing works. But Julius just makes the work he makes, he is in his own world, in his own head, and the music just comes out. I like that. (This one uses electronics, so there is a very heavy reverb.) Stylistically, I don’t have any problem with it sounding tonal at all. We play quite a lot of tonal music. It’s just like a painter using oil paint as opposed to acrylic or a sculptor working with stone as opposed to steel. These things are not that important.
What’s special/unique about the program? And what challenges does it present?
AL: I think every piece is a challenge. We want to do things well, we take care, we rehearse and practice. In a sense, I think that there is a challenge that it takes a lot of concentration on some of these pieces. In Darya’s pieces there is a lot going on which doesn’t seem to be going on. Internally, as performers, we’re thinking a lot about it because her music has physical aspects. So, we’re not just making sounds or playing notes. We’re also doing things with our instruments, we’re moving, speaking. She often has this very micro thing where you do one thing, but incredibly slowly. It reminds me very much of Kenneth Gaburo, the American composer, who had these sensing compositions in the 1960s, where he developed this idea of focusing on on a simple movement like tying your shoelaces, or for me, moving the cello bow, etc. So, when all this is slowed down, you can examine it. There are aspects of this which take a lot of concentration. It might be very easy for an audience member because you think, “oh yeah, it’s just moving slowly”, but it does take a certain application, especially collectively if you all are doing different things. Physically, this concert is not strenuous. Some pieces are strenuous playing for an hour. When I used to play Zbigniew Karkowski, making a noise for an hour, that’s quite hard work. But this concert is kind of joyful, in a sense that we are very much playing together. There are no major challenges. I hope the electronics work. The biggest challenge is electronics. I always say to myself, don’t work with electronics or animals. Because something always goes wrong, but I think we’ll be okay. It’s not too complicated. I think it’s fun.
If you had to choose a single sound to describe Apartment House, what would that be?
AL: I think a car disappearing into the distance, the sound of a car just driving away into the horizon.
LOUISE BOURGEOIS: INSOMNIA DRAWING
ERIKA BELL: SAINT-GIRONS
The field recording in this piece is of a short walk through Saint-Girons, France. I took it during a workshop with Christina Kubisch, where I used her headphones and my own recorder to pick up both the electromagnetic and acoustic sounds of the village, in real-time. The work gives performers guidelines on how to approach listening to and relating to the field recording – first on a personal level, then on a group (ensemble) level. From there, an open yet structured score emerges, created by both me and each individual involved in the performance you are hearing.
SONGS OF MEAT: TEXT
Something—-this or that—–your neck gets hunched—–good thing there is summer, if there was no summer it would be impossible here, impo-o-o-o-o-sible——so think now, you look now, this dark green with a shimmer——you understand—–a well-adjusted person is walking by-y-y-y-y-y——is walking and walking——with a different face—–and sometimes it looks dark and crooked——and suddenly he lifts his head u-u-u-p——and starts talking to me about mushro-o-o-o-o-o-oms——-I think what is it but what is it what is it——I don’t want this something I don’t want don’t want there is plenty of this not-wanting days are full and they somehow go and go and go you know the day it just goes you know—–it goes it goes—-and after that there is this not-wanting, this not-wanting, when there is not then it is full of this not-wanting nothing and it’s so sickly and so disgusting and who is knotting me like that——–arghhhhh——summer!——summer!——summer!——and they all will stay in my eyes——-those mornings and evenings——and all those long days each one of them—-on every each of them I stood under the sky outsi-i-i-i-ide———seeing it all and hearing it all——counting them all——all those dogs and cats——-answering all these many questions, you know, these questions——-questions, you know—–questions——-you understand?—-and I always answer answer answer answer—–someone calls and says GOOD day and I say GOOD day—–it’s because you’re standing on the road so you should not be standing on the road—-you need to find a corner—–a co-o-o-o-orner—–and it becomes a phenomenon you know—–it is possibly a mista-a-a-a-ake————————————————————————————————-Hatred. Hatre-e-ed. Hatre-e-e-ed – pretty and thin!——Hatre-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ed. Hatre-e-e-ed!——–How how how how she squeeeks! This hatred!——-That is how she is, that is how she is, what can you do with her?——-zero! zero-zero-zero!——-nullification! A very serious book—very-very, very-very, very-very!——r-a-a-a-a-a-a-h——–to work out to work out to work out a path——to walk on the path. To walk on the path often. To walk on the path often—-to were you walk up close. Close. Close. Close.You walk up close. To a place where you fall apart—–and there is no need to for the silly talk about the unconscious—-no need for that—-somebody gave a nickname to something—unconscioius!——no need for the cult of a word—-self-expression is for those who don’t draw but work—they don’t work with themselves—-those who think they are better than
others end up in a graveya-a-a-a-a-ard—-where they find out that life is just dust—-that is a Flamenco-o-o-o-o-o-o song! Flamenco-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!——the silly thing is this is a problem—I can talk about it—no I don’t want to talk about it—-it’s a secret———————————————————-
Jurga Šarapova (Translation: Anton Lukoszevieze)
JURGA ŠARAPOVA: SONGS OF MEAT
Sometimes it seems to me that I am a weird creature made of meat – ‘contemporary meat’ – that is alive and then becomes food. The ability of that contemporary meat to move, sing, speak and think always looks so incredibly fantastic to me. Anton Lukoszevieze said it’s music.