TŌRU TAKEMITSU • Rain Coming (1982)
TOSHIO HOSOKAWA • Drawing (2004)
ISANG YUN • Distances (1988)
TŌRU TAKEMITSU • Rain Spell (1982)
DAI FUJIKURA • Ice (2009)
TŌRU TAKEMITSU • Tree Line (1988)
Print program (PDF)
Untitled, © Eva Schlegel
11 August, 20:30
please wait ...
by Alexander Pereira and Florian Wiegand
sponsored by Roche
“Now with a single step, your journey starts”: Sir Gawain must leave Camelot. He has defended King Arthur’s honour and decapitated the insolent Green Knight – but therefore, thus his bargain with the mysterious cavalier who took his own head and went his way, he must meet him up north at the Green Chapel after a year and a day have passed. Gawain’s trial begins. He will return to Camelot alive – but not as a hero…
Ancient-seeming rites, processions, cycles – in general, a creative relationship with the history of his culture during the past thousand years – mark the œuvre of the British composer Harrison Birtwistle (born in 1934 in Accrington), and his opera Gawain is certainly no exception, as its rotating plot is ideally suited to his musical interests. Medieval compositional techniques such as organum, isorhythm or hocket are among them, as are elements influenced by Stravinsky, Webern, Messiaen or Varèse – and Birtwistle calls the painter and illustrator Paul Klee his greatest teacher of all.
“Parlez-moi d’amour”, Lucienne Boyer once asked in a tone of floating melancholy – a much gentler seductress than the Lady de Hautdesert who pursues Gawain. The first time Tōru Takemitsu (1930–1996) heard this chanson, a makeshift bamboo needle scratched across a shellac record and listening to Western music was forbidden – at the age of fourteen, the composer was a soldier in the Japanese army in the midst of World War II. This first key encounter with music was followed fifteen years later by another one: it took place at a bunraku, a traditional Japanese puppet theatre, and was accompanied by the characteristic vibrating and impure sound (sawari) of the shamisen, a three-stringed lute. On the one hand, Western music – increasingly the avant-garde from Messiaen to Cage and Musique concrète –, and on the other the Japanese tradition and its close relationship with Buddhism: the influences that made the composer Takemitsu, who was primarily an autodidact, a major musical voice of Japan are rich, complex and contradictory. Takemitsu’s claim that he wanted to “achieve a sound as intense as silence” reveals the spiritual side of his creations. And yet, his dialectic approach continued until the end of his life. “I would like to develop in two directions at the same time – as a Japanese regarding tradition, and as a Westerner regarding innovation. Deep inside, I would like to safeguard the two musical genres, each in its own, legitimate form… I do not want to resolve this fruitful contradiction; on the contrary, I want these two elements to struggle with each other.” Toshio Hosokawa (born in 1955 in Hiroshima) also uses the tension between cultures as a motor for his creativity – after all, following his primary education in Tokyo, he moved to Berlin in 1976 to study with Isang Yun. One might pinpoint the traditional term of sawari mentioned above as the nucleus of Hosokawa’s musical understanding – in other words, a sound event that seems to combine artistic purity and the natural character of noise. Very early in his career as a composer, he strove for music “that makes the world at the innermost core of the human heart vibrate forcefully”. Since the term sawari is derived from the verb sawaru (to touch), the composer associates it with that very centre, made to vibrate. “We have the following proverb: ‘It is possible to reach the Buddha being in one single note.’ Perhaps that is the experience of a person who has perceived one single sound reflecting the world intensely, and who has united with that sound and thus become one with ‘cosmic time’, which flows through the most profound layer of our being.” Japanese gardens are meticulously planned, but their conscious asymmetry conveys an ambiance that seems naturally grown – Takemitsu and Hosokawa share a predilection for such gardens. While Hosokawa once compared his music with a slow walk through a garden, Birtwistle has described his works as “a walk for the sake of walking, a walk without a goal”: after all, English gardens also simulate untouched nature which has not been bent by man into some shape. Such thoughts give rise to Birtwistle’s sounds, which often appear harsh and uncompromising, but are always conceived organically, resisting short-term human goals and instead appearing to obey higher laws.
The journey to far-away (sound) worlds – it begins with a first step.
Translated by Alexa Nieschlag
THE PROGRAM 2013
BLOG & MULTIMEDIA
TICKETS & SHOP