29.8.2019, 19:00, BrickHouse, Hlubina Coal Mine
Carlos Soria*: Visiones Post-Mortem (2018) WP
Magdalena Johanna Beyer: Music of the Spheres (1938)
Ana Sokolovic: Commedia dell'arte (2012)
Christian Wolff: Out of Kilter (String Quartet; 2019) WP
Petr Kotík: String Quartet No. 1 (2007-2009)
Lucie Vítková*: NINE (2018)
Devin Maxwell*: Cloudseeding 10 (2018)
James Helgeson*: String Quartet (2016-18)
WP = world premiere
*residents of the Ostrava Days 2019 Institute
After more than 10 years, Bozzini Quartet returns to Ostrava. This concert will feature the world premiere of Christian Wolff’s string quartet Out of Kilter, whichwas commissioned by Bozzini Quartet and is dedicated to its players. The quartet will also perform Music of the Spheres by the German-American composer Johanna Magdalena Beyer (1888–1944) from 1938. It is a pioneering work that combines instruments and electronics, though Beyer remains relatively unknown today despite her innovations. Bozzini will also perform Petr Kotík’s String Quartet No. 1 and Commedia dell’arte II by the Canadian-Serbian composer Ana Sokolović. Program includes also compositions by resident-students of the Ostrava Days Institute which will be performed not only by Quatuor Bozzini but also by a brand new quartet named after its founder, a violinist Pavla Slavíková.
Carlos Soria (1996) was born in Lima, Peru. He taught himself piano at a young age, and at the age of 11, he was accepted to the National Conservatory of Peru as a clarinet student. Soria developed proficiently as an instrumentalist but decided to pursue his own music, and switched his studies to music composition. Occasionally he still performs, mainly chamber music as a pianist (e.g. Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time). Soria is also pursuing a career in engineering - he tries to apply his love of math to his music, while preserving its emotional impact.
Post Mortem Visions, a string quartet composed in 2018, is about the things that we might gaze at after we leave our body, on the path to God’s place. After we ascend, we move in automatic motion with only the ability to observe. There, music comes from cosmic objects as we observe them. Musically, the composition features experimental and traditional elements, and draws on mathematical operations like series, sequences, permutations, proportions and functions. It consists of nine movements: movements 1–7 are about death, and movements 8–9 are about rebirth.
Johanna Magdalena Beyer (1888–1944) was a German composer and piano player who emigrated to the USA and created several original compositions there in the 30s and 40s. Despite being a peculiar artist deserving of attention, she is not a household name. Unfortunately, we do not know much about her early life in Europe, but according to the available sources, she studied the piano and music theory at a conservatory in Germany. Before her emigration, she lived in New York City from 1911 to 1914. She would go on to permanently live there ten years later. From a modern perspective, it is interesting to note that Beyer studied composition with Henry Cowell in the US, and wrote some of her compositions for diverse groups of percussive instruments, which makes her work akin to the early works of John Cage. Both Cage and Beyer also experimented with the use of electronic instruments in the late 30s, and Beyer even outran Cage in this respect. Her piece Music of the Spheres for three electrical instruments or strings was created in 1938, while Cage’s famous piece Imaginary Landscape No. 1 was composed one year later in 1939. Although art is not about winning, this fact poignantly illustrates the progressive orientation of J. M. Beyer.
Music of the Spheres was not originally a freestanding piece. It is a fragment from the political opera Status Quo, which Beyer had been working on since approximately 1937. What has remained from this opera are only the textual description and two music parts: Dance(for a large orchestra) and Music for the Spheres. It is not entirely clear from the subtitle of the composition which electronic instruments should be used in the performance of the work, but the score indicates that they should be capable of achieving glissando and continuous changes in dynamics. With respect to the time of the composition’s creation, the Theremin or Ondes Martenot seem to be “ideal” instruments for its interpretation. Nevertheless, the composition works very well even when performed on traditional string instruments. This is possible only thanks to the piece’s novel structure, which gives the work an impression of being very dynamic and volatile in performance. The overall artistic effect of Music of the Spheres is amplified even more by the mystical name of the composition, which endows the work with an air of uniqueness, rendering it into a Utopian musical vision of sorts.
An important figure in contemporary music, the composer Ana Sokolović has distinguished herself both in Canada and internationally. Her works, infused with Balkan rhythms, are influenced by different artistic disciplines and seduce an ever-growing audience, drawing them into a vividly imagined world. Her success is revealed through prestigious collaborations with Canadian orchestras, leading artists on the musical scene, as well as many Quebecois chamber music ensembles. Her varied repertoire, which has received numerous awards and prizes, includes several productions of her operas, such The Midnight Court, which was produced at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. In addition to her activities as a composer, Ana Sokolović is also a professor of composition at the University of Montreal.
Commedia dell’arte, an inexhaustible source of characters, impressed me from my childhood. The characters, initially a theater of improvisation of the street in Italy, present truly the archetypes of the characters of every society in the world. Alive, funny, touching, ridiculous, exuberant, cunning or sarcastic, each character inspired one of the movements of my work. This cycle brings together three compositions for string quartet connected with the same theme. There is a possibility that other characters will be added in the future.
Commedia dell’arte II
Christian Wolff (1934) studied piano with Grete Sultan and composition, briefly, with John Cage. Though he is mostly self-taught as a composer, the works of John Cage, Morton Feldman, David Tudor, and Earle Brown have been important to him, along with long associations with Cornelius Cardew and Frederic Rzewski. His work has been especially concerned with allowing performers (both professional and amateur) various degrees of freedom in the performance process. A number of pieces, from 1953 on, have been used or commissioned by Merce Cunningham. Wolff is also active as a performer and improviser (collaborating with, among others, Takehisa Kosugi and Larry Polansky). He has taught at Harvard and at Dartmouth College and received awards and grants from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Deutschen Akademischen Austauschdienstes (DAAD) Berlin. Christian Wolff has been involved with Ostrava Days since 2001, both as a lecturer and as a musician.
Out of Kilter (String Quartet 5) – This quartet was commissioned by and written for the Bozzini Quartet. (“Kilter” means something like a normal way of presenting something, though it’s only used in the phrases “off kilter” or “out of kilter”.) The music comes in nine parts or small movements, each with one or two sustaining procedures, e.g., counterpoint with doubling (variety of sonority); restricted use of pitches (a variation on my very early music); strict coordination/free coordination of individuaI players; use of pulse/absence of pulse; material drawn from other music (Bach, political folk music, a piece of my own, none of which are necessarily recognizable); etc. Pitches are determined consistently by micro-systems, rhythms are either derived out of counterpoints (augmentation, diminution) or are made freely or ad hoc.
Petr Kotik (1942, Prague) has been an independent composer and musician throughout his professional life. A flautist and conductor, he performs both his own music and works by composers whom he regards as relevant to his own musical concerns. Kotik’s activities have always been guided by his sense of contextual issues within today’s art and music. Kotik’s abilities as a performer have enabled him to realize projects often thought to be unrealistic. The projects Kotik has undertaken succeed partly thanks to his association with outstanding musicians. Kotik has founded and directed many music groups (Musica viva Pragensis and QUaX Ensemble in Prague, the S.E.M. Ensemble and Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble in New York, Ostravská banda and ONO Orchestra in Ostrava), and numerous projects ( The festival of “Music of Extended Duration” in Prague, Ostrava Days, New Opera Days Ostrava, and Beyond Cage Festival in New York). Although Kotik can be identified as a self-taught composer, he studied composition privately in Prague with Vladimír Šrámek and mainly with Jan Rychlík (1960–1963), and later studied at the Akademie für Musik in Vienna with Karl Schiske and Hanns Jelinek (1963–1966). Since the early stages of his career, Kotík has been influenced by the ideas and concepts of John Cage and later by the texts of Gertrude Stein, R. Buckminster Fuller, and Ezra Pound. His work spans symphonic compositions, chamber works and opera. Kotík is the artistic director of Ostrava Center for New Music and lives and works in New York City and Ostrava.
String Quartet No 1, Erinnerungen an Jan, was composed between the autumn of 2007 and May 2009. The idea to write a piece for string quartet followed Kotík's attendance of a concert by FLUX Quartet at Ostrava Days Festival in August 2007. In particular, the performance of quartets by Kurt Weill (1923) and György Ligeti (1953) impressed Kotík to such a degree that he decided to compose a string quartet himself. The one-movement piece, about 25 minutes in duration, combines ideas, which function well together despite their dissimilarities.
Lucie Vítková (CZ/USA) is a composer, improviser and performer. In her recent work, she has been interested in the socio-political aspects of music in relation to everyday life and in reusing trash to build sonic costumes. She was nominated for the 2017 Herb Alpert Awards in Arts, was commissioned by the Roulette Intermedium (NYC) in 2017, and became a Roulette resident artist in 2018. Vítková has formed two ensembles – NYC Constellation Ensemble and OPERA Ensemble. She is currently working on her PhD in composition at Columbia University (NYC) and New York University.
NINE is a string quartet that lasts nine minutes, during which the musicians are exposed to an audio score as well as to their own expression. The musicians are enclosed in an environment of various voices; they have to follow a recording in their headphones as well as from the speakers of a cellphone in front of them, while listening to the overall sound of the whole quartet. To play the piece, the performers should find themselves in a state of divided perception, where they are immersed in multiple directions at the same time, almost distracted from performing.
James Helgeson is a composer and scholar based in Berlin. His first degree was from the Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia), followed by a bachelor degree at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music as well as studies at the École normale supérieure (Rue d’Ulm) in Paris and the University of Paris VII. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Music Composition at Royal Holloway, University of London. He holds a doctorate from Princeton University, where he worked on the subject of Renaissance theories of music and poetry, and has taught at Cambridge, Columbia, and Nottingham. He is the author of two monographs in Renaissance studies and teaches at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, a peace project connected to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
String Quartet – The first movement of this quartet was written in July 2018 as a threnody for Oliver Knussen. The second movement, first drafted two years before, began as a caustic response to political change, but developed into an abstract consideration of “difficult decisions”, musical and otherwise. The quartet responds obliquely to my departure from the rainy islands and has a tacit subtitle: “Tristia britannica” (“Sad British things”).
Devin Maxwell, PhD is a composer, percussionist, and music technology entrepreneur. His chamber music has been described as “amiably strident … clusters hammered insistently” by theNew York Timesand orchestral works “a beautiful puzzle, … fitting between plucks and pedals that build pyramid melodies” by the American Record Guide. As a composer, he has recently been commissioned or presented by e.g. mmm… (Tokyo), the Next Ensemble (Utah), or the Skyros Quartet (Seattle) and featured at BLIM (Vancouver), Monkeytown, Ontological Theater, The Stone (New York), the Wulf (Los Angeles), Columbia University, Dartmouth College, New York University, New York Electronic Music Festival, Ostrava Days (Czech Republic), or Tage Aktueller Music (Germany), among others. He is currently the Director of Composition and Music Technology at Westminster College as an artist-in-residence with his ensemble, Red Desert.
Cloudseeding 10 was written for the Tribeca Ensemble and is the final piece in a series of pieces that I had been composing about weather modification. This one, in particular, explores individual power dynamics within the confines of a larger system.