30.8.2019, 19:00, Triple Hall Karolina
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Hana Kotková, Violin
Daan Vandewalle, Piano
Petr Kotík, Bruno Ferrandis, Peter Rundel, Conductors
Miroslav Srnka: Eighteen Agents (2012)
James Falzone*: Punctuated Equilibrium (2018)
Petr Kotík: Wednesday at RW on Spring Street (2019) WP
Matt Simon*: Found Objects (2015)
Frederic Rzewski: A Dog's Life (2014)
WP = world premiere
*residents of Ostrava Days 2019 Institute
Similarly to Ostravská banda’s first concert (on August 26), this program mixes compositions of young residents of Ostrava Days with the music of established composers (Frederic Rzewski, Miroslav Srnka, Petr Kotík). Kotík and Rzewski have maintained a close professional and personal relationship since the early 60’s. Rzewski’s 2014 piano concerto A Dog’s Life was inspired by Franz Kafka’s short story Investigations of a Dog. A new composition by Petr Kotík for violin and ensemble, written specifically for Hana Kotková, will also be premiered. Miroslav Srnka’s music has been performed by Ostravská banda since 2007. We are pleased to see the growing presence of Miroslav Srnka’s music on the Czech scene. Eighteen Agents (2012), a virtuoso composition for strings by Srnka, will have its Czech premiere at this concert.
Subject to change.
Miroslav Srnka was born in Prague in 1975. He studied musicology at the Charles University in Prague with Jarmila Gabrielová, and composition at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with Milan Slavický. He has participated in exchange programmes and composition courses with Ivan Fedele, Philippe Manoury, and others. In 2009 he received the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Composers’ Prize and Wilfried-Steinbrenner-Stiftung Prize. In 2005 his short opera Wall(after Jonathan Safran Foer) was premiered at the Berlin State Opera and in 2016, the “double opera” South Polewas premiered at Bavarian State Opera in Munich, with Rolando Villazón and Thomas Hampson, conducted by Kirill Petrenko. His compositions have been commissioned, premiered, and performed by leading interpreters such as BBC Philharmonic, Ensemble Modern, and PKF – Prague Philharmonia, and at festivals including Contempuls, Milano Musica, Prague Spring, and others. He has given composition masterclasses at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and Moscow Conservatory. At Ostrava Days 2017, his opera Make No Noisewas performed for the first time in the Czech Republic.
Eighteen Agent sis a piece written for 19 string players. Even though the word agent appears in the title of the piece, the players are not agents in the common sense of the word. In theories analyzing the movements of flocks of birds or schools of fish, an agent represents a single member of such a formation.
The composition is from 2012, and it is a stop along one of the paths that I was taking at the time. On this stop, I was trying to develop new polyphony. I was contemplating how to lead the individual voices through the sound space, and how to form new relationships between them. I was inspired by chance: when I was on scholarship in England, I saw enormous flocks of birds flying over the swamps, and this phenomenon kept me busy for several years. What I was concerned with was how birds fly in these formations, and how they succeed in creating such beautiful patterns while each flies in its own path. This reminded me of how we work with voices in music: they need to have something in common, but at the same time each of them has to be independent. Only then is the whole able to create these beautiful formations together.
Eighteen Agents is written for a string orchestra or string sections of an orchestra, but not in the common sense of the hierarchy of the orchestra. Because each voice follows its own path, it defies common orchestral thinking. Each is its own voice. It is in fact a multiplied string quartet. It requires thorough preparation because the music starts to occur only at the moment when each of the players knows his or her voice perfectly. Therefore, they all need to possess almost identical skills. Based on the character of continuously forming flocks of sound, the individual parts sometimes fly through space quickly, which means that the players sometimes have to play many fast notes. This really does not make their playing easy. The role of the conductor is very important here: a paradoxical situation has to occur, in which we have the impression that each of these voices is flying on its own, while everything is very precisely coordinated. Thus, during the performance, we can constantly return to the image of the flock: once you are in its centre, you can lead the entire movement.
Excerpt from an interview conducted by Renáta Spisarová
for Czech Radio Vltava
James Peter Falzone is a composer and musician whose work is influenced by the conceptual turn taken in systems music. This year marks Falzone’s third appearance at the Ostrava Days Festival. In 2016 and 2018, The S.E.M. Ensemble premiered works by Falzone in its Emerging Composers series. He was an Artist-Fellow at the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island in 2016. Falzone is a founding member of The Providence Research Ensemble and of Ordinary Affects, a new music collective specializing in the music of Wandelweiser, having commissioned new works by such composers as Jürg Frey, Eva-Maria Houben, and Christian Wolff.
The pitch-content of Punctuated Equilibriumis derived from a random-number sequence conforming to a normal or Gaussian distribution. This series unfolds through a process I term “rotation canon”. The items in the series proceed in order, but at each iteration of the line, the first item is omitted and a subsequent item in the series is included. Randomness is thus subjected to a regulated systematization. However, a number of disruptions intervene, reflective of punctuated equilibrium, a concept in evolutionary biology. These distort the straightforward formal structure, causing it to shift and then seemingly revert to stasis.
Matt Simon is a composer whose music focuses on the exploration of compositional ideas, sparseness, and sonic textures. He received his BM from New York University where he studied with Bruce Arnold and his MM from the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Reiko Füting. He has also studied with Nathan Davis. His music has been performed by groups including ECCE Ensemble, Ensemble Signal, Longleash, Quartet121, and S.E.M. Ensemble.
Found Objects treats sounds, intonation, and compositional ideas as objects for consideration. Throughout the piece the material stays constant, though I explore it from a variety of angles in the different sections. The objects on display are all things I have come across in my musical life and I only consider the piece my creation in the combination, perspective, and presentation of the material.
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.
There are many kinds of inspiration that lead to the creation of a composition. Lately, I have been inspired by music I hear. Following an S.E.M. Ensemble concert at the Paula Cooper Gallery in December, I decided to compose a large piece for solo violin, at the scale of Bach’s suite. I began to work on the piece in January, and by March I had already composed a substantial amount of material. Then came the cancellation of a violin concerto by one of the composers who was supposed to participate at Ostrava Days. We were in a dilemma because the soloist, Hana Kotková, had already committed to the performance. This led me to change my plans, and instead of composing a piece for solo violin, I took on the challenge of composing a piece for violin and chamber orchestra. The piece was finished in the early days of August.
Frederic Rzewski (1938) is among the major figures of the American musical avant-garde to emerge in the 1960s, and has been highly influential as a composer and performer. In 1966, he founded the famous ensemble Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV), with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum. MEV combined free improvisation with written music and electronics. These experimentations led directly to the creation of Rzewski’s first important compositions, pieces such as Les Moutons de Panurge, a so-called “process piece”, which combines elements of spontaneous improvisation with notated material and instructions. Rzewski’s “improv-classical hybrids” are some of the most successful of their kind to have been produced, thanks to the fervent energy at the core of his music. Rzewski‘s music is among the repertoire of pieces that define postwar American new music. He has consistently showcased the exuberant boyish pleasures of a composer like Aaron Copland within the rigorously experimental framework of a composer like John Cage. Often unapologetically tonal and fun, Rzewski’s music cuts right through the frequent churlishness of avant-garde music.
“I have an idea of what [A Dog’s Life] should sound like but I don’t know what it really sounds like. And as far as I’m concerned, this is still work in progress – Daan [Vandewalle] knows much more about it than I do because he’s been practicing this music. […] I already have the idea of simply writing like a dog whom you take out to walk in the woods. You take out the dog – the dog has been indoors all day and it’s very happy to go out – and it gets excited by this odour and that one… and it goes running from tree to tree and changing rapidly from one thing to the next… and maybe there’s no connection whatsoever between these things. Actually this is not an idea specific to this piece because for the last 25 years I’ve been trying to do this kind of thing.”
Excerpts from the conversation between Frederic Rzewski and Daan Vandewalle
about composition A Dog’s Life – ASKO/Schönberg, February 2015.