12. October 2018. The program of the evening’s ITINERANT INTERLUDE #19 presented a sampling of works from the contemporary music canon that reflect the wide variety of ways in which composers have approached musical architecture. Coincidentally, but not surprisingly, all works were composed during the 70s, a decade of extraordinary experimentation, a time when composers were also grappling with basic issues of musical structure and material. Just as Albert Weis’s exhibition CHANGES points to wide-ranging associations in architecture and history across time – from Dürer’s polyhedron and the Renaissance Zitadelle to the modernist architecture of Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius, Hans Scharoun, and Le Corbusier – in a similar vein, the works for solo violin performed by Georges-Emmanuel Schneider represent explorations of analogous concerns in the form of musical composition and performance.
Korean-born composer Isang Yun (1917-1995) made his musical career in Germany, also as a noted teacher in Berlin, and strove to create a bridge between Europe and East Asia in his art. In Königliches Thema (1976), Yun deconstructs the theme of Bach’s Musical Offering, as the composer notes, to give Bach’s theme a “walk through the Asiatic tradition” while setting it in twelve-tone sonorities.
Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947) is renowned for having created a unique musical universe in the development of extended techniques, especially for the strings. His Sei Capricci (1976), a tour de force in the contemporary violin literature, is an homage to Niccolo Paganini’s “24 Capricci” (1819). Sciarrino’s work builds upon the iconic technical achievements of the original with an entirely new vocabulary of techniques. Number 2, which is performed here this evening, consists entirely of fragile, shimmering harmonics.
Greek composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) trained as an architect under Le Corbusier and applied his knowledge of mathematics and engineering to musical composition: he translated the space of architectural planes into musical time. Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models such as set theory, stochastic processes, and game theory in music and devised the first computer system to translate graphic images into musical results. Mikka (1971) consists of one continuously moving glissando that shifts between extreme registers, dynamic levels, and bow techniques. The steely, non-vibrato tone, in fact, recalls the sound of an electronic oscillator being triggered by a random voltage generator.
The improvisation on the theme of David Bowie’s haunting instrumental work “Sense of Doubt” (1977), is specifically linked to the light and film installation located in the final space of the exhibition. The musical dialogue was prepared especially for this occasion by Georges-Emmanuel Schneider. Sense of Doubt appears in the soundtrack to the film Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo and also informs the basic concept of Weis’s installation.
Last but not least, to close out the evening (and to fire it up), a musical performance whose cultural/political reference was surely in no need of further commentary paid respectful homage to Sharon Kivland’s installation DIE HOLZDIEBE.
French-Swiss violin virtuoso Georges-Emmanuel Schneider is at home in the literature of the late Romantic as he is in the worlds of contemporary, jazz, improvisation, and electronics. He tours regularly throughout the world as soloist, performing with major orchestras and festivals including the Tonhalle Zürich, LSO St. Luke’s, Wien Modern, Bâtiment des Forces Motrices Genève, the Salzburger und Bregenzer Festspielen, Salzburg Jazzherbst, New York Metropolitan Museum, Shanghai New Music Week, Scelsi Music Festival Basel, National Concert Hall Dublin, and Konzerthaus Berlin. His performances are available on the labels Classic Concert Recordings, Gramola, Time Released Sound, and Creative Sources Recordings.