29. April 2023. The musical works presented during the evening’s ITINERANT INTERLUDE #45 not only resonated with the themes of the exhibition TRANSIT, but also found echoes in the personal stories of the composers, with references quite literally ricocheting through time and space.
Five original compositions for solo violin by Ali Moraly led us through a wealth of images and sounds that reverberate throughout TRANSIT, translating traces of ancient and recent history – and storytelling – into music:
Smoke in the Air is the first movement of Moraly’s Quatrain after Paul Celan’s Todesfuge (2017) commissioned by documenta 14 as part of Scottish artist Ross Birrell’s Fugue Project. Melodie Byzantine (2023) is comprised of microtones and ornamentations inspired by the Ottoman tradition of Byzantine chanting.
East Gate or Bab al-Shams (2022) for violin and voice is the Gate of Sun, the eastern gate of the old walled city of Damascus and the only one to have survived since the Roman era. The text is an excerpt from the Meccan Illuminations by Andalusian Muslim mystic, poet and philosopher Ibn Arabi (1165–1240). The musical themes are composed in the oriental modal scale (maqam) Sigah, a sonority that resides in an unsettling dissonance, which, as the composer notes, is a reflection of an anxious soul in transition, yearning for resolution.
Your Joy is Your Sorrow Unmasked (2023), inspired by a quote from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, is a short study of how joy and grief are interwoven in the human psyche across cultures.
Songline (for Gordon Hookey) (2017) is a musical act of storytelling inspired by Gordon Hookey’s MURRILAND! an ongoing cycle of monumental paintings depicting the history of the artist’s home state of Queensland, Australia through Aboriginal eyes.
The three works presented by Markéta Janoušková provide a counterpoint to the broader metaphors of Moraly’s compositions. They link to a particular period of German history illustrated by the story of the Hotel Bogota, with a focus on composers whose destinies were likewise shaped by the dramatic upheavals of the times.
One of the most important Czech composers of the 20th c., Miroslav Kabeláč (1908-1979) was a classic example of a person being at the wrong place at the wrong time. First it was the Nazis, then the constraints of the Communists and their rigid cultural politics that led to the composer’s music being silenced at home and abroad alike. His music is infused with the folklore of his homeland, but also with sounds of non-European music. Sketches for “Lullaby” for solo violin was written in 1942 while the composer was in hiding in Náchod (CZ).
Paul Hindemith (1895-1960), one of the leading composer-theorists of the first half of the 20th c. was forced to leave his teaching post at the Berlin Academy of Music in the mid 30s when his music was declared “degenerate”. He accepted an invitation from the Turkish government to oversee the creation of a music school in Ankara and became an important influence on Turkish musical life during the era of Kemal Atatürk. He later emigrated to the U.S. where he also became a world renowned teacher and returned to Europe in 1947. Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 11 No. 6 (1918), is an early work that seeks to reinterpret traditional forms, drawing on Baroque violin tradition and Romantic melody.
Hindemith was also one of the earliest influences of Ursula Mamlok, who was born in Schillerstrasse, Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1923. The family fled Nazi Germany in 1939, first to Ecuador and, then, in 1940, when the determined young composer was awarded a scholarship to the Mannes School of Music in New York, she secured passage for herself on an ocean liner at the age of seventeen. She went on to enjoy a long and successful career as composer and educator in the United States and returned to Berlin, the city of her birth, in 2006. At the age of 83, her career took flight again and she remained active composing and concertizing until her passing in 2016. From My Garden written in 1983 reflects her very personal way of using a tone row as the secret key to unlock a meditatively lyrical voice. Reflecting upon her life in transit, she often and matter-of-factly affirmed that “music is my home”.
To paraphrase a leitmotif of the exhibition TRANSIT, the musical performances of the opening evening rendered audible, if not tangible, that which is absent.
TRANSIT was curated by Lotte Laub & Susanne Weiß. Works by Yane Calovski & Hristina Ivanoska, Antje Engelmann, Memed Erdener, Hanna Frenzel, Itamar Gov, Fatoş İrwen, İz Öztat & Zişan & BAÇOY KOOP, Judith Raum, Sim Chi Yin, Annette Weisser
Ali Moraly is a violinist, composer, author and teacher based in Berlin. He was born in Damascus where he studied at the Higher Institute of Music and holds a Masters degree from the Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe. A former member of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra co-founded by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, he has performed widely throughout Europe, the Middle East and the United States and has had works commissioned by documenta 14, the Oldenburg Theater and Bachfest Tübingen. He writes essays, opinions and reviews on arts and culture for various publications in the Arabic speaking world and beyond.
Violinist Markéta Janoušková is a much sought-after soloist and chamber musician based in Berlin. An alumnus of the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin, she is a member of the Mirage Quartett Berlin, Trio Crogiolo, and Ensemble Vitti and founder and artistic director of FolkloreClassic, a crossover project bridging classical and folk music in which she collaborates with her father’s dulcimer band. She regularly performs in concerts and festivals throughout the world, has released several CDs and regularly records for Czech Television, Czech Radio and Deutschlandfunk Kultur for which she recently interpreted the complete oeuvre of Miloslav Kableláč.