Loneliness, breathing and erotic scenes (introduction to the pieces in “Vestiges of…”)
An introduction to the works in the concert “Vestiges of…” with TRIO vis-à-vis.
Nicolai Worsaae (*1980): Replication#1 for soprano, flute and violoncello (2014) is a vocal cycle with four songs, in which the singer also has a performance role. She crawls onto the stage, walks in circles and almost runs. The work presents the singing cultures of different eras: from the art song tradition from the end of the 18th century, through the Romantic period, and to our modern culture of pop music.
The first movement is called Wonne der Wehmut and is a text by Goethe set to music by Beethoven. The real focus, however, is on one word: Trocknet (in English, “dry”). This is reflected in the use of text, which appears as if it has dried up, with only remnants left behind.
In the second song, W. Müller’s famous poem Erstarrung is used, which Franz Schubert set to music in his song cycle, Winterreise. Here the focus is once again on the search for something that has disappeared. This time, however, it is the missing of the beloved. The tears drip into the snow, the snow it melts and traces of the beloved are revealed.
The third song, Die Stille, is a mixture of early songs and well-known folk songs. Reflecting its name, this song creates a space in which loneliness has replaced searching, allowing memories to emerge.
The fourth song, Exit/Abschied, is consequential of the third. It juxtaposes Die Stille’s more traditional style with modern pop music, scattering quotes from pop songs here and there. As its name suggests, this last song is a farewell to classical German Lied art, and a greeting to the English-language pop style of the 20th/21st centuries. It is no longer the higher social classes which dream of love through art; from now on it is possible for everyone to… live in their dreams. The modern individual has similarities to the privileged classes of the 19th century, but does not possess its norms and fixed patterns.
The song ends with the words: “Though it’s not love, it means something…”, which is taken from a song by Depeche Mode. Perhaps this open-ended finish suggests that each individual must search for what happiness is for themself. This is the price of the luxurious and coveted freedom that the development of European democracy has brought.
Neil Tòmas Smith (*1987): oceans made small – Lorcian Moments for soprano, flute, violoncello and tape (2013) is a collection of moments from Spanish poet Federico García Lorca’s life and work, consciously avoiding a straightforward “setting” of his texts. The “moments” are fragments of his poetry, plays and life, which include a song of oranges, his tragic execution, his piano-playing, the statue of the poet in Madrid, the concept of duende (a dark, authentic expression) and the long, dry roads of Andalucía. The fragmented narrative attempts to engage with Lorca in several ways: dramatically, textually and expressively.
Helmut Lachenmann (*1935): temA, for mezzosoprano, flute and violoncello (1968) is one of the first compositions in which breathing itself is used as a theme. The composer plays with the double meaning of the word temA — Atem in German means breathing, and T(h)ema means theme. There is a vast variety of breathing techniques used in the work: lack of air; pressure; forced vibrating air; relaxation and release of tension through exhalation; sung inspiration; pressed inspiration; gasping; shouting; snoring; snorting; “squeezed”, “distorted by pressure” sounds; the holding of breath which leads almost to choking, numbness, paralysis; imitation of broken wood.
temA marks the composer’s the first step towards “musique concrète instrumentale”, in which the mechanical conditions of sound production are included in the composition. This is a technique that would come to characterise Lachenmann’s work. temA was an introduction to consciously accepting these mechanical sounds whilst integrating them into a strictly musical context, giving new meaning to traditional playing actions. In the early seventies such a technique was considered obscure and a “taboo violation” of music itself, with the shock being rooted in the deliberance of featuring such an idea, rather than using such techniques for delivering a Dadaist or expressionistic (humorous) effect.
Helena Cánovas i Parés (*1994) & Maike Graf (*1996): Penelope – Studie über das Warten for voice, flute and violoncello (2021/22 – WOLD PREMIERE). To wait is to love …? The musical theatre work “Penelope – Studie über das Warten” questions the phenomenon of waiting. Chained to the void and bound to time, Penelope waits an eternity for the uncertain return of her husband, Odysseus. Perhaps she waits out of unconditional love, perhaps because the virtue of waiting is all she has left. For 20 years she weaves her waiting room with illusions, exhortations to chastity, distractions in macro and micro perspectives, knots and petrification. Fragile and repeated sounds, shifting time, text loops of painful insight, the choked-swallowed fragments of words. This endless, valueless duration, this self-harm…is it almost time?
Penelope, sung by Natasha López, is alone; accompanied only by her faithful geese on the flute (Petra Arman) and cello (Hugo Rannou). The composition was written by Helena Cánovas Parés and the libretto by Maike Graf.
Flautist and politician Maria Kalesnikava, who was part of TRIO vis-à-vis, involuntarily keeps Penelope company in waiting, since her imprisonment in September 2020.
Sophie Pope (*1988): Collective-Individuals for voice, flute, violoncello and tape (2020). “Collective-Individuals explores animal behaviour with regards to solitary living and life in groups. Animals living in groups communicate, interact (flocking birds) and spread diseases (COVID-19). Solitary animals are largely quiet and disease free. Sometimes, in times of despair, solitary animals cooperate, true to the motto ‘together we are stronger’ (marching locusts). The English language has come up with some great words for groups of animals, I couldn’t leave these collective nouns out. At the end of the day, even in a group, I am me, you are you. Whilst writing the piece I often had the Life of Brian in my head:
‘BRIAN: You’re all individuals!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we’re all individuals!
BRIAN: You’re all different!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different!
DENNIS: I’m not.’
Catharina Backman (*1961): Vestigios (de tus…) for soprano, alt flute and violoncello (2018/2019), in English Vestiges (of your…), is a work composed between 2018 and 2019. It is a commission for the TRIO vis-à-vis (voice, cello and flute) of “Musik i Syd”, a regional music institution in the regions of Skåne and Kronoberg (Sweden). The composer set two erotic Spanish poems by Natasha López to music. Both poems, V and B, are onomatopoeic wordplay on the phoneme ‘b’: some words contain this phoneme, some words begin with it. The poems describe different erotic scenes of two lovers: the ferocious sexual union like a dizzying journey in V, and a passionate kiss in B. Both poems are short but very dense, intense and concentrated. Each verse has one or two words – V is compressed to 9 verses and B to 8. This helps to create a sound world symbolic of the eroticism of the poem. The piece is divided into 5 sections, as follows:
– A: Hearts
– B: Fast circulation (fast cycle)
– C: B (Poem “B”)
– D: Viaje vertiginoso (dizzying journey)
– E: Memory of “V”.
The whole work is conceived as both a journey of the love between two lovers and as a dialogue between the two. Their rhythms are determined by the intensity of passion: sometimes they stop, sometimes they become faster, violent and vehement, sometimes they become very gentle. The work is also the memory of a love story.
Swedish composer Catharina Backman’s work captures this erotic essence and forms a small sound world full of details, in which two lovers and their bodies engage in erotic games and sensual dialogues. TRIO vis-à-vis premiered the work on April 6, 2019 at the concert series sounds like… at Dunkers Kulturhus Helsingborg, and continue to keep the piece in their repertoire.
TRIO vis-à-vis will appear on Wednesday, August 2, 2023 at 21:00 o’clock at the Studio of Kalamata’s Dance Megaron.
Entrance €10 (reduced €5)