Posts Tagged ‘Intersezioni’

Marco Stroppa’s Music, between commitment and technology…by Alfonso Alberti

Marco Stroppa (1959) is a composer with a multi-faceted training: for him the intersections between the different art and knowledge domains are customary frequentations.
After musical experiences in various Italian conservatories, he undertook scientific studies at MIT’s Media Lab in the U.S.: computer music, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. And then the electronic experiences: they aren’t a mandatory condition for his music writing, but a mindset that Stroppa takes on also when composing for acoustic-only ensembles.
Recently the audience in Milano had a chance to attend to the performance of a work of his, Nous sommes l’air, pas la terre (2003-2004) for accordion and viola, where a further intersection comes to the fore. It is the intersection between music and reality: music lives in the world and reads it, reads the evil, the violence, the unavoidable – and avoidable – tragedies.
The title of the work quotes a sentence, epigraph to a book by Svetlana Aleksievic, Byelorussian journalist and writer, well known for her inquiries into some dramatic events of the Twentieth Century. In that book (Voices from Chernobyl), the author lets the survivors of the Chernobyl tragedy talk, collecting their scathing testimony…

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Edgard Varèse’s and Bill Viola’s Deserts, by Alfonso Alberti

I had a chance to see Bill Viola’s movie, Déserts, in 2008 at Rome’s “Music Park”, in the framework of a concert of the Ensemble Intercontemporain for the Accademia Filarmonica Romana. That experience of an intersection between contemporary videoart and 20th-century music undoubtedly was, a little later, one of the strongest drivers (or even the main driver) of the basic idea of this column. But, ironically, only at the twenty-second issue of the series comes to light the article that should have been the first.

Between the years 1950 and 1954, Edgard Varèse, composer whose significance for the following 20th-century developments is hardly overvalued, wrote Déserts, a broad composition for winds, piano, a wide range of percussions and magnetic tape. The meaning of this work is staggering, because it is one of the earliest compositions where the instrumental live sounds and the electronic recorded sounds interact. The two sound worlds are sharply separated: among the seven sections of the work, the odd-numbered ones are for the instruments, the even-numbered are electronics-only. In a live performance, then, you can see three times the unusual sight of a director halting the musicians, who fold their arms and hand over to the recorded tape.

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“And we began to look into the stars”: the spiritual element in Karheinz Stockhausen‘s music, by Alfonso Alberti

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The intersections between music and spirituality are many and most varied. Undoubtedly, in a more general sense, some form of spirituality could and should be part of every musical listening experience. As for Stockhausen’s music, anyway, the spiritual element is far from being unspecific, and there are strategies implemented in such a way that the listener is able to live a very peculiar experience.
The watcher should feel separated from what temporarily he deserted by getting into the concert hall; s/he should feel fully immersed in the sound environment; the experience shouldn’t be mediated by the rationality filter; the time should be suspended in a kind of trance where thinking surrenders to vision; and this vision should touch just what was never before experienced – these seem to be Stockhausen’s intentions when he conceives some of his most important compositions.
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“C’est tout don Juan qui est là”: Alfred Cortot and piano interpretation, by Alfonso Alberti

«The exterior correctness of playing, the mechanical perfection, is pointless, if it doesn’t shed a better light on the generating principles of the art work”, wrote Alfred Cortot. He, sometimes, took many wrong notes, in particular in the last stage of his career: «He discovered the sound and lost the notes, he had staggering ideas and slips of the fingers», someone wrote about him.
In his last years, many among his audiences were struck by performances which, probably fairly, deserved harsh critiques. But if now we are talking about him and not about someone else, it clearly depends on the fact that the drops suffered in the last years do not depict in a correct way the nature of Cortot’s art, and why the boldness of his interpreting career is unambiguously confronting us.
His concerns were elsewhere: in particular, in the world of imagination.
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Music & film II: Clockwork Orange, by Alfonso Alberti

Probably Clockwork Orange wouldn’t be Clockwork Orange, if the unlikely frenzied intercourse between Alex and the two girls of the record store was not associated with the Wilhelm Tell’s ouverture, suitably defiled by Wendy Carlos’ (1939-) electronic oddities. Or if the slow backtracking that opens the movie would not happen with the background of Purcell’s funeral plaint, equally modified by the eccentric American composer (at the time still credited as Walter Carlos). Tool for revisiting the music of the past was that Moog synthesizer, recently invented, that for the first time made available an extended pool of sounds, among whose to choose as from a painter’s palette: Wendy Carlos picked out the sounds that rendered the alienating (and sometimes crazy) desired effect, halfway between a mouse squeak and a fair organ grinder.

In Clockwork Orange more than anywhere else Stanley Kubrick’s direction ideal is realized, for whom «the best thing, in a movie, is when pictures and music create the effect», and who dreamed of a movie without words where «these peculiar aspects of the film art were the only communication means». If you want to convince yourself on the crucial role of the soundtrack for this movie, you should only carefully think in how many cases it suffices in giving the meaning of the situations, as in the case of Elgar’s march that ironically beats the opaque ritual of the minister’s visit. Or how it seems perfectly conceived for influencing, in a biased way, the whole interpretation of the story…
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Robert HP Platz’s music: Wunderblock and memory

Robert HP Platz (b. 1951), German musician who allies an intense activity as a conductor to the activity as a composer, weaves in his pieces references to the most different disciplines.

Hallmark of his poetics is, simply, that since 1989 up today Platz has been working at a single great work, of which each composition is but a partial expression. It doesn’t mean that the composer has been writing an expanded piece made of many parts, which, as soon as completed, in the end will be performed as a unity: the «formal polyphony» that Platz aims to has mostly a conceptual meaning and does not aim to become one in a final summary performance.

The beginning is a pivotal piece, Kern («core»), upon which a kind of «mantle» (Hülle, in German) is progressively spread, where then echoes (Echo) and consequences of the most different kinds spring from. In some subsections of this total work, the polyphony between piece and piece is concretely implemented: the Up Down Strange Charm piece is but the Up piece performed at the same time with the Down and Strange and Charm pieces, all together. (Let’s remark, here, the intersection between music and not less that subatomic physics: up, down, strange and charm are four quark “flavours”, the ultimate components of the matter.)
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Limenmusic’s columns go on holiday…

Limenmusic’s columns: “Intersections”, by Alfonso Alberti, and “Collateral effects”, by Sonia Arienta, go on holiday until September 1st

Do you want to read all the articles?

INTERSECTIONS
english version
italian version

COLLATERAL EFFECTS
english version
italian version

See you in September with new interesting articles!!!!

Do you want to collaborate with Limenmusic, writing a new column??
Write your proposal at info@limenmusic.com

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“Art belongs to the unconscious!”

“Dear professor! Please forgive me if I write to You although I never had the pleasure of meeting You personally. I just attended Your concert, and it was a real delight for me.”

These words are the beginning of one among the most fascinating correspondences of the twentieth century arts, the one between Arnold Schoenberg and Vasilij Kandinskij. Kandinskij wrote those words the 18th of January, 1911, and the concert, whose impression is still powerful for him, was performed the second day of January in Munich: first and second Quartet, Three piano pieces op. 11 and a series of five Lieder.

“I believe that the harmony of our times should not be found along a “geometrical” path, but along an anti-geometrical, anti-logical path. This is the path of the “dissonances in the arts”, so then in painting as much as in music.”

So Kandinskij wrote to Schoenberg in his first letter, and Schoenberg, a few days later:

“The art belongs to the unconscious! It is necessary to express yourself! Express themselves with directness!”

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The program of the historical Schoenberg’s concert of January 2, 1911, will be performed again, a hundred years later, September 8, 2011, in Milan, for Mito Settembre Music and the Friends of Musica/Realtà at the San Fedele Auditorium, at 9:00 PM (GMT+2), with an introduction by Enzo Restagno, performers Quartetto di Cremona, Lorna Windsor, Alfonso Alberti.

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Sofija Gubajdulina, or the freedom of narrating themselves

Could music narrate? In this sense, could the intersection between the art of sounds and the art of narration emerge?

That’s far from indisputable, although it is, in some respects, a natural enough fact. It could be natural, for example, to ask “what is happening now?” at any point of a piece, and expect that the five, ten or twenty forthcoming minutes will be an oriented whole, with a beginning and an end, where each moment is the consequence of the preceding and the premise of the following one. But it could not be so, and in fact for music of different times the narration metaphor could not be a mandatory key, sometimes it would even be inappropriate. A better alternative could be the rhetorical metaphor (the piece as discourse), for example, that can fit much of the baroque music, or the architectural one (the piece as building).

A great part of Sofija Gubajdulina’s (born 1931) work, instead, definitely narrates.

Let’s consider De profundis (1978) for accordion. Missing the true characters (in music there are no proper names and surnames), we meet archetypes: using an appropriate capital letter meaning the symbolic power of musical structures, we’ll meet for example the Dark and the Bright, generated by the powerful mechanics according to which being an acoustically low or high sound always carries along with itself the two opposing visual suggestions.

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Corrado Rojac plays Sofija Gubajdulina’s De Profundis on Limenmusic Web Tv
go to the concert

Photo by Dmitri N. Smirnov (Own work)
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Intersections, by Alfonso Alberti

No German Sky: Death in Venice according to Gérard Pesson

This time, many are the intersecting characters: a novella, Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann (1911-1912); the same-name movie directed by Luchino Visconti (1971); the Adagietto of the Fifth Symphony by Gustav Mahler (1901-1904); the life of the German poet August von Platen (1796-1835); and last a choir piece of the French composer Gérard Pesson, Kein deutscher Himmel (1997).

Let’s trace the story and stitch together all the pieces…
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