ensemble: 1*.1*.1*.1*.sax*/1. 2*.1.0/2perc/pno/cemb*/188.8.131.52.1
duration: 20 minutes
première: January 18&19, 2013, Frankfurter Positionen 2013, Frankfurt LAB, Germany
Conducted by Kasper de Roo
Commissioned by BHF – BANK-Stiftung for Frankfurter Positionen 2013
Ensemble Modern, Conducted by Johannes Kalitzke
Recording published on CD – Changeover by WERGO / Deutscher Musikrat / Edition Zeitgenössische Musik
Produced by Radio Slovenia
Conducted by Johannes Kalitzke
In the years following his studies with Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe, Žuraj developed an increasingly complex and nuanced system for computer-aided composition, in which the more mundane work of testing structural models for chords, rhythms and textures is simplified by generating large numbers of possible realisations algorithmically, after which the composer analyses the results, chooses the most appropriate elements – possibly undertaking his own alterations as necessary in accordance with his musical aesthetic – and sculpts the resulting material into a finished form. A comparison might be made with writing an historical or science fiction novel. Large amounts of research may be undertaken via the internet and in libraries, sources analysed and compared, existing data and academic opinions noted, but all of this pertains directly to an initial idea originating from the author, while the form, language and presentation of the finished result are all expressions of that author’s highly personal aesthetic.
Of course, as with any compositional technique, this use of tools to calculate the minutiae of a composition can be employed in a wide range of compositional processes. For the expressive and energetic quality of Žuraj’s composition, the analogy with a novelist is appropriate. For others, the process of composition might be more akin to the meticulous and unforgiving planning of an architect, or reflect the restrictions placed on a sculptor by their chosen material. An artist is not defined by their tools, but by the choice of these tools and the decisions they make in using them.
RESTRUNG is a complex and refined example of this compositional technique. The large ensemble is fashioned into a mighty yet subtle string instrument, “restrung” in an infinitely complex tuning system. Žuraj’s trademark glissandi and percussive effects involving tapping, plucking and strumming the strings are extended through the use of a clavichord, a ‘cimbalo cromatico’ (a harpsichord tuned microtonally) and a quarter-tone kalimba. Further extensions to the timbre are provided by a significant battery of percussion, and sounding bowls played by the string and wind players. The clavichord provides an important link between string instruments and percussion, being the only acoustic keyboard instrument capable of bending its pitch to create vibrato and glissandi.
No work composed for the Ensemble Modern would be complete without making use of the capabilities of their woodwind and brass players, and these instruments are used here to provide sustained and occasionally melodic extension of the percussive string and keyboard textures – a curious reversal of the traditional roles in a symphony orchestra.
Alwyn Tomas Westbrooke