With this year's Portraits and Remembrance program part, we are introducing a refreshing segment, that has been in our plans for a while. Namely, we are introducing the interviews with composers, done by a young and talented musicologist, Bojana Radovanović, who managed to bring us closer to the selected composers' perspective on their creative poetics, tastes, and artistic goals with her interesting questions.

 
 
 
Bojana Radovanović

Musicologist and art theoretitian, Research Assistant at the Institute of Musicology SASA

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PhD student at the Department of Musicology, Faculty of Music in Belgrade. She completed master studies of transdisciplinary humanities and theory of art and media at the Faculty of Media and Communication (2017, supervisor: Dr. Miodrag Šuvaković). She is a participant of projects Beyond Quantum Music (2019–2022) i APPMES - Applied Musicology and Ethnomusicology in Serbia: Making a Difference in Contemporary Society (2022–2024).

Her master thesis Science as Art – interdisciplinarity in Dragutin Gostuški’s scientific works (supervisor: Dr. Vesna Mikić) is published within the e-collection Wunderkammer/Their Masters’ Voices (FMU, 2018). She also published a book Experimental Voice – Contemporary Theory and Practice (Orion art, Belgrade) and co-edited the collection Shaping the Present through the Future: Musicology, Ethnomusicology and Contemporaneity (Institute of Musicology SASA, 2021). She publishes papers in collections, journals, participates in conferences, tribunes and panel discussions.

She works on archiving and promotion of Serbian film and art music on internet with association Serbian Composers. She is a collaborator with Center for Popular Music Research (Belgrade, Serbia). She is also a member of Board for the Protection of Serbian musical heritage SASA and a member of Editorial Advisory Board in Metal Music Studies journal (Intellect Press, UK). She is the representative of the Section for transdisciplinary research in art for the INSAM Institute of Contemporary Artistic Music from Sarajevo, and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the INSAM Journal of Contemporary Music, Art and Technology.

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„I proudly present what Bor gave throughout its history“:

Interview with Marko Karanfilovski

 

 

Composer Marko Karanfilovski, whose piece Forced March for clarinet, piano, snare drum, baritone, cello will be performed at Rossi Fest 2022, completed his bachelor and master studies at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade with Prof. Tatjana Milošević Mijanović. Besides his formal education, he attended masterclasses by distinguished composers, such as Ivo Medek, Dimitris Andrikopoulos and Yinam Leef. His pieces were performed in numerous concerts and festivals in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the USA. He also writes music for short films, theater plays, and commercials. We spoke with Marko Karanfilovski about the piece he will present himself with to the Rossi Fest audience and the inspiration and ideas that guided his compositional process, which will come to life with performers.

 

 

We had the opportunity to be introduced to you with a short biography and a video

announcement before the performance. Tell us something you would like the audience in Serbia and abroad to know, but it somehow always gets left out from the official, shortened biographies.

 

Together with contemporary art music, I deal with various other genres, dependent on the moment and the mood. I give every kind of music a chance, which does not mean that I enjoy all of it, but I approach them without prejudices. Besides music, I also write lyrics for popular, that is, commercial music, I make beats for hip-hop/trap/drill music, I also have one bossa nova song and a lot of other things. This is not something I understand as something rare or unique, but as something very natural for a complete musician. If I were to deal with only one genre, I would be like a mechanic who fixes only one brand of cars, which is not a good mechanic. Throughout my adolescent age, I also went through a metal phase. First, you divide music by genre, then you look at it as good or bad, and at the end, you know whether it works for you or it does not, regardless of its artistic or music quality.

                 

                                

In line with the previous question, tell us something more about the piece we are

hearing at Rossi Fest 2022. Can you delve into the particularities of what inspired you to create Usiljeni marš?

 

Since the foundation of Rossi Fest, I have wanted to compose for the call for composers. I was a member of the choir Brothers Baruh, where I had the opportunity to get to know the music and the culture of the Jewish people. And during all those years, I either did not have enough time or did not have a clear idea of what to write. Then one day, I was driving through my hometown Bor, and I saw the statue of the poet Miklós Radnóti. Although I have seen this sculpture a thousand times before, that is when I got the idea to put to music some of his songs, which he wrote while he was forced into labor here. I have chosen the song Forced March because I liked it instantaneously. A good text eases and directs the process of composing. When I decided on the text, what remained was to write the music in about seven days, so I got to work. 

 

 

What does this composition reveal about your compositional process? What are the continuities, and what are the differences compared to your previous works and methods that led to them?

 

My process is usually very similar. I think about an idea, a concept, and parameters for a longer period of time, and the very writing of the piece is quick. This "pre-production" is the essential part of creating for me. Admittedly, I sometimes take an instrument into my hands and develop ideas from improvisation. Still, I more often delve into the deliberation beforehand when I am completely separated from the instruments and music in general. Often things become clearer when I am doing something completely unrelated to music. 

As for artistic apathy, that is something I dealt with even before the global crisis, and I still struggle with it today. Namely, after the master studies of composition, I did not write a single note for precisely two years. I even thought about quitting the contemporary music altogether, but then came the commission from the KozArs festival in BiH, and some other commissions from different chamber ensembles, open calls, and, finally, Rossi Fest. I realized that I needed the more extended break to return to writing and work more than ever before, although I now have very little time to do so because I work full-time in a music school. 

The continuity of this composition to my previous work is that it also strives toward more clear musical parameters. Rhythm, pulse, and even the melody are almost entirely rejected in the contemporary works around the world, and those are the parameters because of which we consider contemporary music an heir to classical music that evolved naturally. Without those parameters, recent artistic works should be viewed separately from the so-called classical music because, apart from the noting of music and the use of classical instruments, there are no more other connections. 

 

 

Speaking about Usiljeni marš, how did your experience in the domain of applied music help or influence the process of creation, given that there is a text and the personal connection between the song and festival competition theme?

 

Subconsciously, it probably helped. Having a text or any other kind of program makes the process easier for sure. The program directs you, whether in trying to paint the atmosphere, emotion, or use music as a counterpoint or parody to the text. Only, this was easier because I did not have to consult the directors as in applied work and had it all in my own hands. As a great local patriot, I am proud of what Bor gave, even in those awful war times. I try to maintain the idea of a cosmopolitan Bor. I follow the thread, from the French times and surrealist Vane Živadinović, the short-lived work of Radnóti, black-wave movies, Goribor works, all up until today.

 

Is the text, the content, or the emotion reflected in the very compositional decisions and requirements from the performers, instruments, structure, or the content of the piece?

 

The title itself says Forced March. That was my guiding idea, a bit naïve, but it works as such. My first association to march is a snare drum, which is why it is obligatory in the ensemble. Likewise, the clarinet is very prominent in Jewish music, and it also gets its place here. Every instrument in here because it should be here. Also, music mostly follows the atmosphere and the emotion of the text, be it through underlining or as a commentary. 

 

 

When you write a piece that includes voice, do you rely only on the meaning of the text in

this part, or do you work with the sound of the language itself? How do you imagine

someone not understanding the language perceives the emotion and meaning

behind the text? What are the techniques or specifics of your work with voice and language in this piece?

 

I rely on all means available to better communicate the emotion and the content of the text. This piece does not have much "floral singing" because the text does not allow it. This is why I even considered including a reciter into the ensemble instead of a singer but finally decided on a singing part as I saw that as an additional instrument that can also carry out the text by, at the same time, keeping the narrative quality of performance.

 

 

Do you manage to follow the international scene of contemporary music? Can you recommend to the audience music by any contemporary composer you like to listen to, learn from, or get inspired by?

 

I try to discover new music every day. Those are often the compositions written in the same of the last year. I follow several YouTube channels that regularly publish works from more or less affirmed artists from all over the world. To the audience I would warmly recommend work by Uroš Rojko, Đuro Živković, Justina Repečkaite, Chaya Czernowin, Nina C. Young, and other contemporary authors. Of course, one should always go back to Charles Ives. Lately, I have been writing and listening to a lot of solo guitar music, and here I can mention Leo Brouwer, Nikita Koshkin, Dušan Bogdanović, Toru Takemitsu, and Atanas Ourkouzounov.

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Sonorities and textures are the result of a detailed colour design:

Interview with Chesney Palmer

 

In this conversation with Chesney Palmer, a pianist, clarinetist, and emerging composer from South Africa, we had an opportunity to further explore thoughts and intentions behind the piece In the Spaces, I still remember, which will be performed at Rossi Fest 2022. In his biographical note, Palmer emphasizes his keen interest in abstraction theories and the links between visual abstract art and music. As a synesthete, he uses his multi-associative experiences to explore abstract art in a personal way that emphasizes textures, shapes, and sounds in music. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. under Lukas Ligeti.

 

 

We had the opportunity to be introduced to you with a short biography and a video announcement before the performance. Tell us something more about yourself, something you would like the audience in Serbia and abroad to know, but it somehow always gets left out from the official, shortened biographies.

 

Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this interview. I think something worth noting about my music journey is that I had a very late start. I only began with formal music education at the age of 14 and had to work extremely hard towards developing my passion to this level. Although this is only the beginning I look forward to developing more than I have already in the past 11 years.

 

 

In line with the previous question, tell us something more about the piece we are hearing at Rossi Fest 2022. Can you delve into the particularities of what inspired you to create In the Spaces, I still remember?

 

In the Spaces, I still remember is a work that incorporates the use of vocal textures that create extra musical moods that connect us more closely with human experiences. This is not a new concept used in music, the recent work of Lukas Ligeti That which has remained…That which will emerge? has inspired me to explore the use of spoken text in music to create a very organic human experience of telling stories about history. John Adams’ work On the Transmigration of Souls also displayed profound use of spoken text to convey a serious message riddled with sober experiences about lived reality. The physical presence of the human voice juxtaposed with the music present an eerie realistic tribute to a dark space in human history. The reason I chose the word “space” as opposed to “place” is because “place” carries natural assumptions of a geographical location in history, in this case being Germany. Space allows the audience to attach spaces in time of significance that warrant remembrances. Not all the stories of that time took place in a single location and this work tries to accommodate all the stories that took place at several spaces and honours those personal memories as well.     

 

What does this composition reveal about your personal compositional process? What are the continuities, and what are the differences compared to your previous works and processes that led to them?

 

This particular work presents a typical approach to composition I am attempting to cultivate and solidify. The contexts of my works almost always attempt to grapple with content of a more serious nature that provokes thought. A more accurate exploration of my compositional style deals extensively with theories of abstractionism and ideas of the metaphysical linking visual art and music through synesthesia. While In the Spaces, I still remember does not deal with art in my usual compositional style, it does still make use of my approach to sound through colour. It also presented a welcomed challenge in attempting to compose using a limited number of instruments, and thus my choices of instrumentation was a direct bearing of timbre and colour choices. While this has no real influence of the style of music I produce, it most certainly has an influence of how I choose to orchestrate certain sections of the music according to a colour design conceived before I begin the compositional process.

 

 

Can you further introduce us to the experience of a synesthete, specifically in relation to the piece In the Spaces, I still remember? What are the ties between the visual, sonic, and textures in this particular piece?

 

This work presents a plethora of colour design that creates interesting moments of sound – both tonally as well as moments of synthetic flavour. The choice of the spoken texts was very intentional. Like all sound to a synesthete, voices also present a palate of diverse timbres because no two voices are the same. That being said, the unique timbres, inflections and natural tones of each musician’s voice contribute to a layer of extra-musical colour that gives this work a distinct character. While there is no finite way of calculating exactly what the colour design for these sections will be because I don’t know what each performers voice sounds like and if this is performed by different musicians then the colour scheme would natural change. I suppose in some ways the music becomes this organic entity that is able to develop and shape itself independently of the composer. Working with colour is a primary approach to composition for me, whether that is using visual art as a proxy to suggest colour choices or exclusively using sound to develop a colour design for any piece of music. In this particular piece the sonorities and textures are the result of a detailed colour design.  

 

 

What are the specific techniques and gestures you used to transpose the initial written inspiration in your piece? Especially in relation to requirements for performers, instruments, structure and content of the work.

 

Standard Western notation serves as a common vehicle to communicate my ideas effectively without too many unclear demands. The overall gesture of the piece finds a place in the ghostly whispering effect that the human voices create, perhaps as a metaphor of memory echoing through time. While the music itself is a tribute of what was before the use of the voice in this way provides the character of the piece. The clarinet was an intentional choice to carry a quasi-solo function because of the versatility of its timbre changes. Due to the limited number of instruments I made choice based mostly on an instruments ability to maintain or change timbre relatively quickly that would not feel to inorganic or too sudden, because the inspiration was to tell a story through text, the music in this piece became a servant to the text and in some moments provided dramaturgic intervals as if a change of scene on stage.

 

The theme of remembrance happens on several levels. The first level is provided by the use of the words “I remember” constantly echoed by the performers. The second level is provided by the narration of the poem by Paul Celan by the reciter and the third is use of the names of The Righteous Six. All of these levels systematically enter the piece at different stages, much like a beginning, middle and end.

  

 

Since your piece requires whispered and recited text, do you rely only on the meaning of the text, or do you work with sound of the language itself? How do you imagine someone not understanding the language perceive the emotion and meaning behind the text? What are the techniques or specifics of your work with voice and language in this piece?

 

Quite an interesting question. In this particular piece, I did not specifically pay attention to whether a non-English speaking audience would understand the meaning of the phrase “I remember” and surmised that the message of this section of the festival (Portraits of Remembrance) would be universally understood by default. The choice of having the phrase “I remember” whispered was definitely a compositional choice, as I intended to create a soft layer of music that would not necessarily get in the way of the spoken text or music. Because the inflection of the speech allows for a high pitched “I” and a hushed/murmured “remember”, the audience should get the effect of an almost airy phrase that gives a ghostly and distant feel, symbolic of physical distance in time from these events. This would allow them to still experience the musical effect without having to understand the phrase in its entirety.

 

 

Do you manage to follow the international scene of contemporary music? Can you recommend to the audience music by any contemporary composer you like to listen to, learn from, or get inspired by?

 

I would recommend listening to everything and everyone, simply because building an aural library as a composer is paramount for obtaining a good sense for what is possible and it expands your musical imagination through the lens of how other composers thinking and approach musical content. I listen to Lukas Ligeti, Jeanne-Zaidel Rudolph, John Adams, György Ligeti, Mahler, Debussy (especially his later works). Due to my close relationship with Jeanne-Zaidel Rudolph and Lukas Ligeti whom I learn a lot about approaches to composition whether through their teaching, conversations or listening to their work, I am always inspired to achieve more and develop further not only in composition but in thinking more broadly about the field and about the world of music.

 
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“Directness and frankness can be as meaningful and
powerful as the abstraction”:

A conversation with Jorge Andrés Ballesteros

 

 

Boston based composers and speaker Jorge Andrés Ballesteros refers to himself as a polystylist, whose works center on classical music vernacular but include a range of musical styles. Among his regular commissions for projects and original works that engage with issues facing the community, he has written for groups such as the Chattanooga Symphony and the Mozart Society Orchestra. He received his BA in Music from Harvard University, where he studied with Chaya Czernowin, Edgar Barroso, and Trevor Bača.

On this occasion, we were interested in the particularities of the compositional process in general, as well as behind his piece They came first…, which will be his debut at the Rossi Fest.

 

We had the opportunity to be introduced to you with a short biography and a video announcement before the performance. Tell us something more about yourself, something you would like the audience in Serbia and abroad to know, but it somehow always gets left out from the official, shortened biographies.

 

I love traveling and seeing the intersection of cultures! There’s something powerful and revealing about being in a place outside of your norm, but which is the norm for everyone else around you. When you’re the outsider, you see your own culture in stark relief by the differences to where you’re at in the moment and you learn something about yourself in the process. Having grown up bicultural (Mexican and American), getting to see more of the world has let me understand myself and my homes a little more.

 

 

In line with the previous question, tell us something more about the piece we are hearing at Rossi Fest 2022. Can you delve into the particularities of what inspired you to create They came first…?

 

When I wrote “They came first…” several years ago, I had been thinking a lot about how we view the Holocaust from the perspective of today. I had been passing by the New England Holocaust Memorial often at the time, since it sits in a part of downtown Boston that I frequented. At the end of the 6 glass towers, representing both the chimneys of the concentration camps and the 6 million Jewish lives that were extinguished, there is a black stone bearing Martin Niemoller’s poem “First they came…” I was struck not only by the poem but by these towers that stand in the heart of the city, creating their own little pool of quiet reflection in the hubbub of downtown. They stand there to remind us not only of what happened but of what can happen again if we are not willing to speak up. This piece was a reaction to that, showing the cost of silence and how quickly persecution can escalate, even in the heart of our cities and in places we might not expect it.

 

 

What does this composition reveal about your personal compositional process (maybe also in regards to the current context of the global crisis)? What are the continuities, and what are the differences compared to your previous works and processes that led to them?

 

There are a few continuities in this piece in relation to my personal compositional process. I often take inspiration from extramusical ideas and how they can be translated into musical gestures; in this case, I took the concept of isolation and persecution and wrote the quintet as a stand-in for a community that is isolated group by group, or in the case of this piece, player by player. In my composition process, I also often play with gestures in which a static or relatively static object (the central, obsessive D) is pushed to the extreme by other musical forces, eventually to a breaking point; in this piece, that emerges not only at the breaks where each player speaks but in the flute part, which becomes increasingly frantic as it realizes what is happening. “They came first…” does stand out from my other work, however, in its reliance on spoken text. Whereas I usually avoid explicit speaking in my instrumental works, to allow any references to be discovered by the individual listener if they so choose, I felt it was important for this particular piece to be direct and brook no argument as to its meaning. In today’s context, I think that directness and frankness can be as meaningful and powerful as the abstraction I often love in art. Perhaps that is why I had another unusual feature in this piece as compared to my other work, namely the relentless focus on a texture created by a single pitch. Harmony fascinates me, and most of my work explores harmonic relationships extensively. Not so this work, where the harmony is limited to uneasy unisons, moments of augmented chords born of an attempt at establishing a major third, and the subsequent collapse of those chords back into the uneasy unison. In no other work do I spend so much time on a single pitch, and I think this obsessive focus is related to the frankness of the text and of the occasion.

 

 

What are the specific techniques and gestures you used to transpose the initial written inspiration and Martin Niemöller's poem in your piece? Especially in relation to requirements for performers, instruments, structure and content of the work.

 

I referred to some techniques and gestures in the previous answer (the spoken text; the slow separation, isolation, and silencing of individual players; and the repeated, failed attempts to escape the uneasy unison into a different harmony), but other techniques include the following:

  • The instruments and players are silenced in order from the middle outwards: clarinet, viola, violin, cello, and finally flute. The middle of the ensemble, of the society, is hollowed out while the edges attempt to keep the music going. Although the reality of persecution tends to happen in the other direction (from the margins to the middle), I felt it was important in this piece to acknowledge that every marginalization of a group is a loss in social morality, a hollowing out of the middle.

  • In another piece, I have players enter and exit the stage depending on whether or not they are playing. In this piece, however, the players remain onstage when they finish, sitting silently, judging the others’ silence for having stopped.

  • At first, the ensemble maintains some unity. They manage to find a peaceful moment at mm. 30-2, the flute manages to sound a new idea at 39, an idea picked up by the cello shortly after, but it is to no avail. The unity finally shatters and the first elimination (the clarinet) happens, almost halfway through the piece. Now that the first domino has fallen, the disappearances escalate with increasing speed, the following instruments fading away 13 measures later, then 9, and finally 6. After each group is targeted and silenced, it becomes easier to target and silence the next one. Similarly, the intensity of the elimination of the first group is never quite matched, with the cello’s departure the quietest of all.

 

 

How does your description of your style - “centered in the classical music vernacular but include a variety of musical styles” (from your website) - apply to They came first…?

 

I would actually argue that among my pieces, “They came first…” is among the least influenced by non-classical styles. It is certainly strongly informed by contemporary aesthetics in classical music. The verbalizing of the text is perhaps outside of these traditions and nods towards a more traditionally narrative formal structure than more contemporary forms, but in terms of techniques, it is less mixed than other works of mine. It’s worth acknowledging that this is a somewhat older piece and my compositional style has evolved towards polystylism quite a bit since I wrote “They came first…”

 

 

Do you consider this polystilistic type of expression as the one that fits the contemporary context the best, and how do you see it developing in the near future?

 

On a personal level, I absolutely see polystylism as the best way I can fit into the contemporary context. Through music, both as a composer and as the executive director for an ensemble, I engage with a wide array of people and communities, and I find that my communication is strongest when we adapt to a language we share, be that a literal language (e.g., switching to Spanish when working with Latino colleagues) or an aesthetic language (e.g., discussions on harmony that overlap between contemporary classical music and funk/jazz). I find that this chameleonic communication style extends to my music and how I engage with the world around me.

That said, although this type of expression fits who I am as a person and a composer, I think it would be presumptuous for me to say that it is the one that fits the contemporary context best for every composer. I think it is important to have a certain humility in acknowledging that classical music and our individual styles are just one aesthetic among many, but it is just as important for us to search for and speak that aesthetic that most defines each of us. In this way, there is a certain social polystylism that can proliferate, and I’m sure that large-scale mélange of styles will continue to develop in unpredictable ways specific to millions of local contexts.

 

 

Do you manage to follow the international scene of contemporary music? Can you recommend to the audience music by any contemporary composer you like to listen to, learn from, or get inspired by?

 

I follow it to some degree, but with a stronger focus on music in the Americas. Some composers that I would recommend include Jessie Montgomery, Adolphus Hailstork, Jerod Tate, Caroline Shaw, Gabriela Ortiz, and too many others to list. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention some teachers, friends, and colleagues who span continents and whose work has inspired and influenced me: Chaya Czernowin, Edgar Barroso, Marta Gentilucci, Anthony R. Green, and Trevor Bača.

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“My piece conveys the idea that like the train, the man has
no real choice regarding his life”:
Interview with Carmel Curiel

 

Composer and violinist Carmel Curiel, a student at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, with Prof. Yinam Leef, spoke about the inspiration and her compositional processes around the piece Is there anything sadder than a train, which will be performed at Rossi Festival 2022. Carmel received the Sharett Foundation excellence scholarship in composition. She won the 1st prize in the Israeli Composers Competition, and at Mark Kopytman Composition Contest, 2nd prize at Klon Award for emerging composers, and her pieces were played by the NY Philharmonic Orchestra, Iineraire Ensemble, I.C.S Quartet, Mivos Quartet, Meitar Ensemble.


 

We had the opportunity to be introduced to you with a short biography and a video announcement before the performance. Tell us something more about yourself, something you would like the audience in Serbia and abroad to know, but it somehow always gets left out from the official, shortened biographies.

   

I first encountered the world of music when I was a little child and started to learn to play the violin. 

Actually, my parents have nothing to do with classical music and they were very surprised when I asked them to play the violin.

I discovered music composition when I was in high school thanks to my great music teachers. At first, it was really hard to understand what to do with a completely blank music page, but later on, I fell in love with this world!
when I was serving in the army, at the intelligence force, I didn't want to stop composing, so I spent every night composing before I went to sleep. 


 

In line with the previous question, tell us something more about the piece we are hearing at Rossi Fest 2022. Can you delve into the particularities of what inspired you to create Is there anything sadder than a train?

 

I remember that after reading the book Is this a man? For the first time, I felt that Levi’s writing was really powerful and I wanted to read more books written by him. 

I found a book containing a collection of poems written by him and the poem called Monday was deeply emotional for me. I remember how the music just came to me from the poem itself. I knew That one day I will compose a piece inspired by this poem.


 

How do you see the relationship between a human and a machine/a mechanic entity? What are your interpretations of this transition “from the mechanics to the humanity that exists in the poem” that you are referring to?

 

In the poem Monday, Levi attributes human qualities to the train and to the horse by referring to their sadness.

In my perspective this comparison also conveys the reversed metaphor, attributing the man to object-like qualities, taking from him his humanity.

In the musical aspect, we can feel this process from the recurring, measured movement to the periodic but not accurate movement, and to the free movement represented by the solo clarinet.

The piece ends with the movement of the train which symbolizes the idea that like the train, the man has no real choice regarding his life.

 

What does this composition reveal about your compositional process? How does the piece fit your aspirations so far? What are the continuities, and what are the differences compared to your previous works?

 

I wrote this piece two years ago. The connection I had with the poem inspired me to create and use new materials I haven’t used before, especially the motive at the beginning - the repetitive movement.

Throughout the writing of this piece, I realized the strength that exists in connecting music and text. The music animates the text and communicates it emotionally, while the text makes the music more concrete and more focused in the way it conveys the experience to the listener.


 

What are the specific techniques and gestures you used to transpose the initial written inspiration and Primo Levi’s writings in your piece? 

 

The piece is written in three parts, like the verses in the poem, and it conveys the experience of each of the objects in the poem. In the entire piece, there is a feeling of slowing down that is also expressed in the poem.

I did not want the music to be written in a way that literally mimics the text so the piece also has its own artistic freedom.

The jet technique and key clicks produce a sense of mechanics, as opposed to the clarinet solo which has a very warm and human sound and is also reminiscent of the sound of klezmer music.

 

Do you manage to follow the international scene of contemporary music? Can you recommend to the audience music by any contemporary composer you like to listen to, learn from, or get inspired by?

 

I draw a lot of inspiration from both classical contemporary composers such as Stravinsky and Ligeti.
I’m also really influenced by newer contemporary music composed by Murail, Romitelli, Unsuk Chin, Kaija Saariaho and Olga Neuwirth.
I really enjoy going to contemporary music concerts and discovering new composers and new pieces, and experiencing the huge variety in today’s contemporary music.

 
 
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“In composition, I appriciate chastity, sobriety and perfect instrumentation”:

Interview with Pavel Nesit


 

As is the idea with these short interviews, young composer Pavel Nesit introduced us with his ways of thinking about music, his process of working on a musical piece, and particularities of his piece 1396 for alto saxophone, snare drum and cymbal, which is to be performed at Rossi Fest 2022.

Pavel Nesit is currently studying composition at the Prague Academy of Music in the class of doc. Ph.D MgA. Slavomír Hořínka. In his current work, he tends to work with limited compositional material and focus on improving the purity of his compositional language. He has written a number of compositions for various ensembles (solo, choral, chamber or orchestral) and music for theater and film.


 

We had the opportunity to be introduced to you with a short biography and a video announcement before the performance. Tell us something more about yourself, something you would like the audience in Serbia and abroad to know, but it somehow always gets left out from the official, shortened biographies.
 

As a composer, I have been trying to participate in as many projects, competitions and various other offers as possible since the beginning of my studies. I am aware that it is extremely difficult to be a successful composer of contemporary music. This journey is usually not very pleasant, but I am motivated by every success. I think it's a lot of luck, but you have to go against your luck.


 

In line with the previous question, tell us something more about the piece we are hearing at Rossi Fest 2022. Can you delve into the particularities of what inspired you to create 1396?
 

It is one of the first compositions I wrote at the Academy in Prague. At that time, I was open to all possibilities and I wanted to try as many new composition methods as possible for me. That's why I worked with multiphonics, microintervals, singing to saxophone and other ways of playing. In addition, however, there is something in the composition that is typical for me. It is about deriving musical procedures from a few objects. For example, all multiphonics are based on the opening melody of the saxophone and the rhythm of the percussion instruments is based on a rhythmic figure, which we can hear also at the beginning of the work.

 


 

In your biography and video introduction, you underline the idea of “compositional purity”. How does that idea concretely reflect on the piece at hand, 1396?
 


My intention was for the individual musical ideas to come together and merge into one, and for the listener not to feel that there was anything extra in the composition. I am constantly trying to cultivate this compositional technique and thus create a pure musical language. 


 

What does this composition reveal about your personal compositional process (maybe also in regards to the current context of the global crisis)? What are the continuities, and what are the differences compared to your previous works and processes that led to them?
 


I created the piece in 2019 and at that time I was open to all the possibilities of composition, and I still am. I think that says about me that I don't shy away from any compositional challenges.


 

What are the specific techniques and gestures you used to transpose the initial textual inspiration in your piece?
 


At first, I tried to incorporate into the music the rhythm of the monotonous slave labor that the prisoners had to do in the concentration camp. Furthermore, I used various techniques to express the horror that took place on the spot. For example, microintervals are supposed to evoke the cries of children who have been held in the camp. I had one condition from the customers of the composition, and that is that the composition is written for only two instruments. I chose a saxophone and percussion and these instruments provided me with rich possibilities, which I then used in my composition.

 

Do you have any particular plans or ideas for further development of your style?
 

Of course. I would like to incorporate into my work what I like about music. It's about energy and regularity. That's why these days I'm often inspired by modern dance music.


 

Do you manage to follow the international scene of contemporary music? Can you recommend to the audience music by any contemporary composer you like to listen to, learn from, or get inspired by?

 
To be honest, I don't follow the world scene that much, because I invest most of my time in composing and then I often don't have the energy to listen to more music. However, I would very much like to recommend the work of my current teacher Slavomír Hořínek. His work is characterized by its chastity, sobriety and perfect instrumentation. All of the above is what I appreciate about composers.

 
 
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“by my death... II concerns the larger Jewish historical narrative characterized by destruction and ressurection”:

Interview with Gil Dori


 

Gil Dori, a composer whose piece by my death... II will be performed at the Rossi Festival 2022, is interested in interactive electronic music, graphic notation, proportional procedures, and Jewish music. In addition to his artistic work, Gil is a co-founder of the EyeHarp Association, a cooperative start-up that develops accessible digital instruments, based in Barcelona, Spain. He also teaches online computer music and sound design classes at Ben-Gurion University and Sapir Academic College, Israel. Gil holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Arizona State University.

In this short conversation, Gil revealed his ideas, intentions, and thoughts behind his piece and his compositional process in regards to this work and his other compositions and projects.


 

We had the opportunity to be introduced to you with a short biography and a video announcement before the performance. Tell us something more about yourself, something you would like the audience in Serbia and abroad to know, but it somehow always gets left out from the official, shortened biographies.
 

Just a small fact, a few years ago I had a really good experience with Serbian musicians. I became friends with pianist Maria Ivanovic, and I wrote a piece for her and for the accordion player Nikola Tanaskovic. They are both very talented musicians, and I had a great pleasure working with them.


 

In line with the previous question, tell us something more about the piece we are hearing at Rossi Fest 2022. Can you delve into the particularities of what inspired you to create by my death... II?
 

The general context of the inspiration for the piece is my research into music and the Holocaust, which focused on a series of works that the Israeli composer Arie Shapira wrote about the Holocaust. I wanted to see how I could react to this topic in my own music, and if I would be able to contribute meaningfully to the vast repertoire of works about the Holocaust.

Growing up in Israel, encounters with the Holocaust and its memory are fairly common. The piece derives form my personal discourse on the Holocaust, in the context of my upbringing and my musical interests regarding to my national and cultural identity.
The piece is a central movement of a larger composition, but I also consider it as a separate, standalone work, because I wrote it for violinist Alexandra Birch. As a performer and a researcher, Birch aspires to bring broader recognition for music about the Holocasut. She served as a great inspiration in composing this piece. 

Birch also introduced me to the poems that inspired the piece, Inheritance and Away from Babi Yar, by the Jewish Ukrainian-American poet Julia Kolchinsky.
Kolchinsky's grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and her poems reflect on personal and familial history, and the transmission of trauma between generations. They also reflect on the general Jewish narrative. These poems were a perfect match to what I wanted to express in music.

 


 

Can you give us more insight into your doctoral project? How does this “standalone movement” relate to other movements of the project?
 

 


The doctoral project includes a research part and a composition part. The research looks into representations of the Holocaust in music, and specificially in the series of works about the Holocaust by Shapira. The goal of the composition is to apply the findings of the research, and respond to them, in my own music. It presents my own compositional approach to the Holocaust, but it also corresponds to Shapira's style, techniques, and expressive means. In a sense, “by my death...” is a homage to this composer, who had a strong influence on my path to dealing with the Holocaust in music. 

However, my composition is not about the Holocaust alone. It concerns the larger Jewish historical narrative that is characterized by destruction and ressurection, with the Holocaust as a central event. 

The complete piece is written for clarinet, horn, percussion, violin, double bass, and live electronics which is played by three laptop performers. It is an expansion of the traditional klezmer group, with a horn that symbolizes the shofar, and live electronics as the bridge to the contemporary sound world.

The first movement is chaotic, and focuses on tradition. The sounds are based on a spectral analysis of shofar blows. The music also features elements from Torah cantillation and Jewish prayer motives, all of them relate to ideas of death and ruin.

The second movement concerns the Holocaust itself. It is for solo violin and laptops with narration parts, so it is unique by instrumentation and it is the only movement that features text.

The final movement is based on memorial ceremonies in Israel, with the memorial siren as the main musical source. The movement is shaped by a siren's sound: swelling from nothing to become loud and piercing, until it slowly decays. In this movement the laptop performers manipulate sound recordings of a shofar, which can be regarded as the ancient siren.


 

What does this composition reveal about your personal compositional process? What are the continuities, and what are the differences compared to your previous works and processes that led to them?

 

The piece was written in a time when I was more invested in Jewish music and music about the Holocaust. I was teaching a Jewish music class at Arizona State University, directed a curated concert series about music and the Holocaust, and composed other works that reflect on Jewish culture and history. These days I do not deal so much with the topic of Judaism in my music. 

The piece also shows my interest in electronic music and live laptop performance. At the time I participated as a performer in LOrkAS (Laptop Orchestra of Arizona State), which I even co-directed. This aspect is still very strong in my music, and I keep exploring it in new ways. 

 

What are the specific techniques and gestures you used to transpose the initial textual inspiration in your piece? Especially in relation to requirements for performers, instruments, structure, and content of the work.
 


Although the text inspires and informs the composition, the focus is on expressing the general feeling of the text, its tension, its stress, and also its factual storytelling style. The text is broken and shattered, and the narrators are asked to read the text in different ways, such as extremely fast, whisper, shout, and more. 

The performers of the narration parts do not necessarily have to be trained singers or narrators. In addition to narrating the text, they also perform the live electronics, processing their own sound at the same time. This may cause confusion and discomfort to the performers, which could be transferred to the audience. This is a way to evoke the idea of transmitting memory of a trauma through the generation.

The music progresses gradually from abrasive, unintelligible sounds, to a thin texture with little activity. It slowly reveals the melody of the violin, which includes fragments from Shapira's Holocaust-based pieces. This goes hand in hand with making the text more understandable, yet with lingering fragments of the previous text (using the electronics).


 

Given that your piece includes voice, do you rely only on the meaning of the text in this part, or do you work with the sound of the language itself? How do you imagine someone not understanding the language perceives the emotion and meaning behind the text? What are the techniques or specifics of your work with voice and language in this piece?
 

 

Only two lines, one from each poem, are meant to be heard clearly: “The last place he came to look for her before the neighbor whispered Zhid” from the poem Inheritance, and “You don’t belong with dirty Zhids!” from Away from Babi Yar.

 The way I see it, the use of the word zhid is striking and familiar enough that even those who do not understand the language can understand the overall meaning. Especially with the way the performers are instructed to read these lines. This, I believe, works with an audience who may not understand English, but also with an English speaking audience who may not understand Slavic languages. After all, the poet—who wrote in English for English speaking readers—purposely used this specific word.


 

How do you transpose your non-musical inspiration to musical means in by my death… II? What are the techniques (compositional and performing) used to paint that contrast? Also, what binds them together in that regard?
 

I started the composition with the violin melody that is played at the end of the piece, and worked backwards from it. The melody has its inspiration from the music of Shapira, and it even takes fragments directly from him. This musical means of quotation resonates with the notion of the history and memories that are told and retold, passing down stories and pain from generation to generation, which Kolchinsky writes about in her poem Inheritance. This ties together both the musical and non-musical inspirations for the piece.

Until this point in the piece, the violin plays broken parts of melodies and motives, in a mosaicing technique. The performer is faced with quick transitions between different bowing and pizzicato techniques, between fixed and undetermined pitches, and between single, double, and triple stops. These techniques are combined with live sound processing of the violin to help evoke a state of disarray, confusion, and stress, which arises from the poem Away from Babi Yar. 

All of this also helps to connect the violin part and narration parts on a conceptual level, although the live sound processing is what binds them together on a practical level. On the other hand, the narration parts, with their own electronic sounds, also contrast and obstruct the violin, making it harder for its music to break through. Only in the end, when all the electronics are silent, in a contrasting section to the whole piece, the violin gets to escape like Rayachka in Away from Babi Yar and to tell its story like the speaker in Inheritance.


 

Do you manage to follow the international scene of contemporary music? Can you recommend to the audience music by any contemporary composer you like to listen to, learn from, or get inspired by?

 
I try to follow the contemporary music scene. In the past few years I’ve been interested in animated graphic notation, especially that is created in real-time, during the performance itself. I find the scores and music of Cat Hope, Ryan Ross Smith, and David Kim-Boyle particularly creative and inspiring, both technologically and artistically.

 
 
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“I look at sound as a material with its own microcosm”:

Interview with Otto Wanke

 

Otto Wanke is a composer who has undertaken a series of musical studies: jazz composition in Prague, and then classical, film, and electroacoustic composition – under Karlheinz Essl, Iris ter Schiphorst, Wolfgang Liebhart in Vienna. In recent times, he is active as a performer of electroacoustic music. In 2018, he was employed as an assistant at the Department of Ethnomusicology at the Music university of Vienna and enrolled in a Ph.D. program.

This brief conversation reveals streams of inspiration to his usual work, and especially piece Paths...Shadows, which will be performed at the Rossi Festival 2022.


 

We had the opportunity to be introduced to you with a short biography and a video announcement before the performance. Tell us something more about yourself, something you would like the audience in Serbia and abroad to know, but it somehow always gets left out from the official, shortened biographies.

 

At the center of my composition process lies the idea of considering sound as a material with its own microcosm, which can be analyzed with different electro-acoustic technologies and used for the structural as well as formal compositional proceedings. This sound material has its own physical and perceptive characteristics: grain, thickness, density or elasticity and my compositional techniques like instrumental synthesis or transformation of spectral morphology can be seen as a metaphorical sculpturing of the sound.



 

In line with the previous question, tell us something more about the piece we are hearing at Rossi Fest 2022. Can you delve into the particularities of what inspired you to create Paths...Shadows piece?


 

I was very touched by the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski. The first encounter was actually a movie about their live, which I saw last year and started then my own research. At this point, there appeared also my intention to expose this material through a new composition.



 

What does this composition reveal about your personal compositional process (maybe also in regards to the current context of the global crisis)? What are the continuities, and what are the differences compared to your previous works and processes that led to them?

 

Whenever I use text sources in my compositions, I never work with fixed libretto, which is given to me. Rather I am creating my own version of this libretto, which inspires me and which correlate with the musical structures. In the case of this concrete composition, I additionally selected the phrases on my own and the structuring of the lyrics was for me a very important stage of the compositional process. 



 

What are the specific techniques and gestures you used to transpose the initial textual inspiration in your piece?

 

In this particular piece, I have tried to find different parallels between the text source and the structural development. For example, the typical textural technique was a text collage, which was further developed unfolded through the interventions into the text structures such as rearrangements of words or isolations of individual syllables in order to distill the common substance of these fragments. A similar procedure can be seen in musical phrases, where I often isolate very small gestures and I vary them through various looping techniques. 



 

Given that your piece has a prominent role for a soprano performer, do you rely only on the meaning of the text in this part, or do you work with the sound of the language itself? What are the techniques or specifics of your work with voice and language in this piece?

 

I have tried to create a kind of zooming of selected words and phrases. Through this zooming I wanted to create a process of flux and motion. On one hand, the soprano is closely interlocked with the instrumental gestures and often the ensemble plays a role as a resonator of the voice. On the other, there are the mentioned looping techniques which can be very helpful in understanding some aspects of text as well.


 

How are Żabińska’s diary and Alighieri’s Purgatorio, in your words, two “highly contrasting text sources”, represented in Paths… Shadows in the musical sense? What are the techniques (compositional and performing) used to paint that contrast? Also, what binds them together in that regard?

 

Both sources differ in period of origin and used language was quite different as well. There is also a fundamental contrast between the imaginary world of Dantes purgatory and the real life drama of Żabińska. On the other hand, the Dante`s allegory can be associated with the dramatically events from the history as well as from our recent world. The most original aspect of Dante’s version of Purgatory is that the souls in Purgatory are in the process of moral change. They suffer, but not simply in order to repay a debt: they are suffering in order to become good. The consequence of this is that they willingly undergo the suffering, they understand the reasons for it. It is in fact the place where you reflect on those sins, and where you change the psychological tendencies which led you to sin. This leads to extraordinary richness in the depiction of character.

 

Do you manage to follow the international scene of contemporary music? Can you recommend to the audience music by any contemporary composer you like to listen to, learn from, or get inspired by?

 

I am very inspired by French spectral composers as Gérard Grisey or Tristan Murail but also by the Romanian school, which is not so famous – especially by Horațiu Rădulescu. I would also recommend the work of Jonathan Harvey, who created very interesting ambiguities between instrumental and electronical music.