BEING A COMPOSER

Prof. Vladimír Bokes - Music Academy Bratislava / SK/

Composition is an inseparable part of music, just as the art of performing. came to being in response to the invention of music notation, which had providea means of recording on a paper a tone or a sequence of tones — a melody —so that this melody may, at a different time or place, be played again unaltereWith the passage of time a melody wears down, starting to bore; it is then gettinnecessary for it to be modified or changed altogether. Cantate Domino canticunovum, sing to the Lord a new song, we surprisedly find in the Psalms. That is thcomposer’s job. Music notation influences the music just as the letters influenthe spoken word, by ennobling it. Thanks to the notation a new music univerarises in Europe — the polyphony. Scribere est agere, to write is to act. In puttinhis thoughts down on the paper, the writer makes them public, impelling thoswho will have read them, to make up their opinion on them. Either to receive theand to act accordingly thereafter, or to refute them. Words of wisdom—often mby incomprehensible and unbelievable adversities against their author—shall beuniversal good, while others are destined either to be forgotten or to cause ill. Sucis his “agere”, the manner in which he transforms the world. The same, howeveis true for the composer. A new song asks much of him: surely he should knosomething about old songs to avoid “reinventing the wheel”. (2010)

 

“Could you please write in a week a paragraph on your second symphony forour bulletin?”

 

The decision to write a symphony does not come easily. The more than twohundred years old history of the genre impels the person, who by fault of variouscircumstances is called a young composer, to think somewhat differently of it thanof a four-movement orchestral cycle which obeys the rules one can learn in theclasses on music forms at a conservatory. Over the said two centuries the art ofsymphony has travelled an enormous journey. And today, by the end of the 20thcentury, the evolution should not stop. A generation that is unable to create theirown image of the genre, harms not only themselves, but also the genre itself. Cre-ating one’s own image entails entering into a conflict with the image that currentlyprevails. Too often in art has failure or misunderstanding proved to be a morelasting fruit than a cheap effect or an even cheaper copy...

 

“Apologies, we cannot publish this for you.” (1980)

 

How does it all start? My story is uncommon, but then all stories are such.In the environment in which I was brought up, career in composition was a recurring notion. A. Moyzes and E. Suchoˇ n had been seen by me since my earlychildhood as concrete persons, well-known Slovak composers, no myths. WhenI was asked, whether at home or school, the question of “what would you like tobecome when you grow up”, I answered without hesitation. I started to compose asI was acquainting myself with the keyboard and music notation; as a twelve-yearold I started to take private lessons with M. Koˇ rínek, who lived on our street justa few blocks away. The example problems on practical harmony as well as on theelementary composition subjects, which he provided me with, interested me morethan anything else and I was allegedly quite good at them. (1958)

 

In those years it became again possible, after a long break, for us to hear per-formances of the works of Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinski and Bohuslav Martinu.That was a completely different music, bold, full-blooded, brimming with irregu-larities and remarkable dissonances. Vinyl records were released by Supraphone’sGramophone Club, Stravinski’s works in the Soviet Book. At the piano at home Ifound the piano version of Suchoˇ n’s opera Svätopluk, the premiere of which wasscheduled to appear in the theatre, for which my mum was preparing to write a re-view. There I found chords which I had not seen in scores ever before. By the endof 1958 she brought from one of the earliest Warsaw Spring Festivals a few vinylrecords of Lutoslawski, Penderecki, Górecki, but also of Stravinski (In MemoriamDylan Thomas), and then a couple of books, such as Nowa muzyka (New Music)by B. Schäffer. Later I read about young Slovak composers who had yielded to theWestern influence and wrote dodecaphony (Zeljenka, Kolman). In 1960, my mumgot seriously ill, while I enrolled in conservatory, and in 1962 she died. I becamefriends with Marián Varga, with whom I found, to a certain extent, a replacementhome, and following Schäffer’s book we started to write our first dodecaphoniccompositions. Sometime in the autumn of 1962 I brought with me to a compositionlesson with Pospíšil myWebernian Inventions for the String Quartet, upon lookingat which he called in joy for Koˇ rínek, Zika, and even the headmaster Dr. Novᡠcek,to have a look. "That is interesting, but carefully with that." I think he rememberedme; three years later I was in a conflict withMoyzes about my piece Sequence, andafter further twelve years Novᡠcek condemned my first piano concerto. Classmatesof mine who played on the strings started to practice the Inventions, but they let itgo. It would not work out. (1963)

 

W. Allbright: Dance Macabre, T. W. Adorno: Fünf Orchesterstücke, L. An-driessen: De Staat, T. Antoniou: Chorochronos, G. Amman: Funksignale, K.Ager: Partita, I Remember A Bird, Serenade, Metaboles, G. Amy: From the broadspace, D. Bergpope: The wind septet, L. Brouwer: Diferencías, L. Berio: Sinfonia,Cinque variazioni, Sequenza III, Coro, Laborintus, Circles, Guaderni, Concerto fortwo pianos and the orchestra, P. Boismans: Oeuvre, A. Bloch: Carmen biblicum,Anenaiki, A. Bon: Transfiguration, S. Bussotti: Bergkristal, Aria di Mara, Minia-tures, H. Badings: Six Images, Z. Bargielski: The violin concerto, J. Barraqué:Sequences, M. Borochowski: Vox, R. R. Bennet: Commoedia, E. Brown: Ice Age,M. Brandt, F. Burkh, G. Bauer, P. Boulez, H. Birtwisle, A. Bozay, R. Bredemayer,S. Balassa, G. Bialas, D. Christov, G. Crumb, F. Cibulka, F. Cerha... (about a 20 pages long list of works broadcast as part of the regular programme Studio neuerMusik, Vienna, edited by Lothar Knessl. The names of the authors and their pieces,which I noted as I heard them over the years 1971–89, might not be entirely cor-rect.)

 

I spent a lot of time over my fourth symphony (1980–82). Although its com-position itself took, as always, around nine months, the preparation was three orfour times longer. The texts of Mihalkoviˇ c’s poems are interconnected, and it isnot possible to penetrate these complex relationships immediately. Moreover, herewe are presented with poetry which is political, historical, and which, I would say,personifies today’s attempts for a new understanding of the content of tradition andcontinuity, without a romantising pathos, but with a good deal of critical relation-ship towards the contemporary, towards the circumstances, in which we are boundto live today. Many of the texts I genuinely understood only on the basis of myown experiences.

 

The texts were not suitable to be turned into a song cycle, as their theme re-quired a larger space, a broader stage and a longer time. I chose the form of thesymphony of the Mahler and Shostakovich type tending towards oratory. I am cer-tain that the never-ending discourses on whether 40 minutes is too much or toolittle for a symphony can only be harnessed if a piece is created that oversteps thislimit twofold.

 

My previous pieces, from the 2nd wind quintet up to the 3rd symphony, wererealisations of the formal type of one-movement sonata. Partly because of that Ichose the many-movement type in this case; the symphony contains thirteen move-ments in this order:

 

Refrain I (chorus+orchestra) – Intermezzo I (orchestra) – Ján Hollý with aline in the vernacular (bass+brass instruments) – Janko Král’ died in seclusion(mezzosoprano+strings) – Refrain II (chorus+orchestra) – Concerto grosso (or-chestra) – It is but a moment (mezzosoprano+bass+solo violin+orchestra) – Untilthat moment you are here (bass+orchestra) – Chorale (orchestra) – Blissful of po-etry (mezzosoprano+chorus+orchestra) – Intermezzo II (13 instruments) – RefrainIII (chorus+orchestra) – So have we been burying you (chorus+orchestra)

 

The order of the poems of Mihalkoviˇ c’s collection is altered, the poems arealternated with orchestral or chamber movements of various lengths. The textmarked in the book as Post Scriptum at the end of the collection is repeated inthe symphony three times as the Refrain. If I understand it correctly, it is a kindof anti-ode to the three aforementioned poets, J. Hollý, J. Král’ and J. Novomeský.By gradual unweaving of the text in the individual fugal entries of the chorus I tryto support this impression (how cruel, how hardhearted), so that in the concludingpianissimo we hear a surprising, self-deprecating point on the helplessness of thataverage Slovak, who takes activity and courage for cruelty. Similarly as the textunfolds, the tone material returns in each new strophe to the starting tones of thesequence (c-d-a: : :), developing it further. Hence an impression of tonality arises,similarly as in the beginning of my first piano concerto. Heterophony in woodwindinstruments creates a conceptual counterpoint to the chorus, representing the pole of the expression of peace, relaxation and freedom. I guess it is no more importantto talk about mathematical approaches. They are as always in the rhythm, structureand in form. The line of harmonic sequence leads from the introductory unisontowards the concluding orchestral cluster.

 

The second movement is orchestral, following the previous in the thematiccomponent; the first two motifs are cluster and held tone. I thought of the factthat in the listener’s memory it is the last word of the Refrain, “helplessness”, thatremains. I would not want to suggest that the second movement is an expression ofhelplessness, but yet some kind of hidden connection may dwell there. A similarmeans of development as that used in the 2nd symphony is applied here but on asmaller scale. The diatonic components in the individual permutations of the all-interval series constitute unbelievable combinations, such as the clarinet solo witha sound which is close to that of folk meadow chants. This movement culminatesin sudden entries of tutti and slowly recedes in intermittent woodwind solos.

 

The text of the poem about Ján Hollý calls for a bass solo. The entire movementis accompanied by a brass section. The combination of a eulogistic song with aparody should correspond to the use of sordines. The poem speaks so clear thatit only needs being expressed on the back of held chords. The comical sequencewith wine is based on a small passage mobile (aleatorics). It is certain that the textwill arouse doubts and reflections on whether it is appropriate today to remind thatHollý was a priest; on how it was meant there with that text “Pray for us” etc.But this is the text of Mihalkoviˇ c’s collection which was published in 1977 andtherefore has nothing in common with the years of crisis, while it was marked as“engaged” by such experts as Feldek and Felix. So what? Alright, but why it wasturned into music by Bokes, who is nowadays in such a situation, you know: : : butthat is just that helplessness, that is the “Reassurance of the embrace, from which,so help us all saints, we be delivered.”I conceived the fourth movement as a variation on the third. It suffices tocompare the alliteration in the titles of both poems. On the absurd notation ofthe accompaniment in strings I would only say this: as I analysed Boulez’s LeMarteau sans maître I became interested on two occasions in the notation of agrace note, which is not led to a note on the beat, but is followed by a pause. It isan element on the border between metrical and aleatoric rhythms. Its importanceshould be duly appreciated, which I did by using this element as a basis for theaccompanying figure. Had the strings played without grace notes, they would haveplayed pauses, i.e. they would have not played at all. The alternation of bars, thestructure in strings, the number of tones in the individual figures, it is all determinedmathematically (Cartesian product). On top of all is a dramaticmezzo solo, more ofa recitativo than arioso, in contrast to the bass aria. The mezzo-soprano is separatedfrom the absurd metrorhythmics of strings. The meaning of the text is indisputable:“we have guessed”, “we have transformed”.

 

The second version of the Refrain maintains the continuous unfolding of thetext. The chorus structure is nevertheless different, making use of micropolyphonyand melismatics in the individual chorus members’ parts. The chorus/throng is in chaos, in the stage of an opinion shift; the society goes through an inner con-flict, having noticed the error in their previous attitude towards the activity of anindividual whom they had formerly denounced or ignored.

 

Concerto grosso is the longestmovement of the symphony, its size beingmaybemore than three times that of the entire 3rd symphony. Can someone state a rule,unchanging and unbreakable, which would give the maximal tolerable ratio be-tween the lengths of the individual movements of a cyclic composition? I am moreand more occupied with the extramusical aspects of composition structure; thismovement also corresponds to what is “told” by the structure of the previous oneRefrain II. The name Concerto grosso is slightly misleading, there is no neoclassi-cism here like Stravinski; it is a competition, duel, a conflict between two orches-tral groups of winds and strings. The motional, or better to say melodic, element isbrought by the winds. The rhythm is relaxed at first in the aleatorically polyphoniccombination of instruments of same kind. In each new segment the long tones ofphrases are shortened until the relaxed melody is turned into a strictly rhythmicsuccession of unevenly alternated crotchets and quavers. Nevertheless, even herethe irregularity, from the viewpoint of the golden ratio, is a regularity. The densityof structure in the individual successive segments does also change according tothe golden ratio, yet it does not consitute a linear arc directed upwards towards theclimax, quite to the contrary, before the climax the structure reduces to a five, three,two voices and eventually to a single voice. The climax sets in subito in a multi-phony of 21 solo woodwind and brass instruments. From here on the course of thesymphonic movement could be characterised as a rippled retrogradation leadingup to a single-voice rhapsodical melody in solo flute (let us recollect the 2nd sym-phony). The static, sonoristic or harmonic element of the movement is in the stringgroup. Each segment is built on pedal point or ostinato. It starts with a cluster inthe central register of the string orchestra, which builds upon the conclusion of theRefrain, similarly as the second movement builds upon Intermezzo I. In the nextsegments the cluster is gradually broadened up to the extremal positions, while itsdensity is diluted in waves. Of course, the golden ratio sequence is valid in thiscourse also. Such a sequence consistently leads up to the dyads in extremal reg-isters (C]–c000), forming a basis for the climactic multiphonic segment in winds.The progressive retrogradation subsides in accompanying that harmony, i.e. oneof its tones, until the end of the movement. The individual phases of the elementdevelopment are separated from each other by contrasting segments, in which themotional component shifts into the string section as a progressively growing andthickening mobile; the static component is instead in the solo wind instruments,which emphasise the tone selected from the previous static block in strings. Thiselement, just as the subsidence, in combination with successive fading away of thetones C]–c000constitute the coda of Concerto grosso, the first focal point of the 4thsymphony.

 

Now follows the movement named “It is but a moment”. Due to the presentlyconcluded large scope of Concerto grosso, this name acquires a certain humourous,lightened undertone. The poem, the first of the three dedicated to Novomeský, bridges a number of paradoxes. It peaks at words which are of contrasting meaningbut are similar in sound (zveˇcniet’–zvecniet’, útokom–útoˇcišt’om, the meanings ofwhich are: eternalise–materialise, attack–refuge). Their character requires that inmusic, which is restricted to a “chorded” accompaniment, a similar solution, that ofchanging the chord colour, is used, similarly as is done by Schoenberg in the slowmovement of his Five Orchestral Pieces. The colour is only in the background, inthe centre is the duet of the solo players, extraordinarily exposed especially at thewords “moment”, “eternalise”, “beast” (that b0will possibly be long rememberedby bass singers, it is a proper falsetto), “able”. Mathematics is also present herenot only in the structure of chords, but also in the melismatic figures of solo players.The duet is in the style of baroque oratories encased between the introduction andthe conclusion with the use of solo strings. Who wants will find the golden ratioapproach here; someone else may underline the violin part by the text of the poem.The conclusion is shortened in the ratio of the golden section as well. In thismovement I use orientational bar lines, with no time signature given, which areintended to facilitate periodisation.

 

The next movement “Until that moment you are here” is a solo bass recitativoand uses a strict bar partitioning. The challenge is possibly in the combination ofbars of fourfold difference in the base rhythm unit (crotchets and semiquavers),as the common combination is that of twofold difference (3=8 and 2=4, 5=16 and3=8). Boulez, Xenakis as well as Ferneyhough magnify these differences; in thebifurcation of the rhythm two contrasting elements arise. Their contrast is accen-tuated in the instrumentation: the singing is joined with the trills in the strings,opposite to which, as an extended upbeat, the faster tone sequences in brass in-struments are heard. This movement is maybe a bit pathetic, yet in this case I amhappy with that. Such an expression is conveyed in particular by the segment re-peating the text “no, not for oneself”, which is underlined in the orchestra by asequence reminiscent of the end of the 2nd symphony (he who wants will under-stand this connection), and which sets the scene for the text’s main point which isas if tailored for the status of L. Novomeský after 1968. And not his only.The orchestral chorus is a large gradation towards the second focal point ofthe symphony, which is the entry of the movement “Blissful of poetry”. As for itsstyle, it is possibly a return to the multiserialism technique. I do not mind suchan “uncontemporariness”. Anyway, if we are nowadays returning to all kinds ofthings, maybe we should also come back to this one. The following componentsare organised:Metrum - permutations of a similar kind as are in one of the segments in thedevelopment of the 2nd symphony, in which the number of beats are combinedwith their base unit in the ratio of the golden section. In this case the metrumcoincides with the rhythm, as the instruments, or the groups, set in always at thestart of irregular bars.Instrumentation - regular permutations of orchestral groups (woodwinds, thebrass section, strings).

 

Structure - a gradual shift from the introductory single voice to almost incomprehensible clusters with the use of the golden ratio, Cartesian product and thenecessary number permutations.

 

The gradual increase in the overlaying of the individual layers is accompaniedwith the increase in intensity and causes the sound to become “rough”. The pitchis as everywhere derived from the permutations of the base all-interval series. Thiscircumstance brings into the serial “savagery” an unusual element, first signs oftonal relations as a consequence of aforementioned secondary dianotics. I realisedthat in all of that preparatory multiserial organisation I had an enormous freedomstemming from the fact that the tones of a given serial constellation, the instru-ments of a given configuration and of a given rhythmical value can be combinedthanks to their transposability to various registers. It is here that all that “random”,“subjective”, “unpredictable” and “mysterious” is applied. It may seem little, butit is enough for me. Why is this movement called Chorale? After the performanceit should no longer be necessary to answer this question. It should suffice to sayjust that the chorus do not sing here, that the choral fragments are as if scissored. Agradation leads to the start of the next movement, in which all, except for the bass,partake. The bass has sung its part in the aria “not for oneself”.The poem “Blissful of poetry” is divided into three strophes. This form ismaintained by the music structure, whereby the first strophe, the second and themain focal point of the symphony, is played in forte, while in the next two strophesthe dynamics fades away. Each strophe begins with an orchestral polyphonic entry,followed by a choral segment which makes use in the delivery of the text high-lighted in Mihalkoviˇ c’s poem by a specific font (the italics; is it not a quotation ofNovomeský?) the combination of Sprechgesang with an extended and rich poly-phonic melismatics placed upon the central syllable of the text. The notation vergeson the graphical, though that should not be important. The chorus should soundhere as a vocal imitation of the orchestral entry. Both components, the orchestra aswell as the chorus, thereafter take over the accompanying role; on the backgroundof thus created, more complex, harmony (cluster), the solo singer sings the nexttext in recitativo, as if giving a commentary on what was sung by the chorus. Thethird strophe contains in the chorus the text “Every collapse eventually leads toa new beginning”, which I emphasised by a fugal, baroquising, delivery. In thismovement we may therefore talk about polystylistics. It is however not a purebaroque, nor a fugato; the tones follow in serial sequences and the entire segmentis built on top of a gradually intensifying ostinato-sounding orchestra, similarly asit was in the segment “not for oneself” in the movement “Until that moment youare here”. The movement ends in quieter dymamics, at which the orchestra, nowsignificantly reduced to a few solo instruments and a quartal chord in cellos, returnsto the thematic material from the beginning of the movement.The next course of the symphony may well be met with misunderstanding, as inits expression it does not chime with the positive note of the preceding movement.But it is ultimately the text that said “Ah, I am pitiful today”, implying that todaypeople do not understand one another. That is where we can find the motivationfor the noted choice of expression “Senza spirito”, the music of misunderstanding.

 

The second Intermezzo is written for 13 solo instruments only, which play all thetime in the same (unusual) manner. This movement has a certain relationship withthe orchestral Chorale; the Intermezzo is essentially its caricature. The structure ofthe movement is similar, at first the solo instruments alternate, then the structure isgradually thickened up until the point of a climax, at which all play simultaneously;thereafter ensues a phase of fading away prosecuted in a manner opposite to that ofthe Chorale. If in the Chorale the metrical irregularity stemmed from changes inthe number of beats as well as in the length of base unit, the Intermezzo maintainsa constant base unit (the quaver), by which an impression of mechanical deliveryarises, an expression of mindlessness, which is to be further emphasised in the latermovements of the symphony.The last return of the Refrain (III) can be characterised, in particular in chorus,as a replay of the first movement. The chorus is as if representing the yet unmech-anised, yet unautomatised part of the society. The strings provide a static surface,played in ostinato, and the winds, which in the first movement played an aleatoricpolyphony, are already automatised; they play in slow quavers and in staccato.In the last movement all have been automatised, including the chorus. The textcalls for the use of the funeral march elements. It is but a march of the automatisedpartaking at their own funeral — “we may yet bury ourselves”. Originally, theworking title for this movement was “R. U. R. Marche funébre”. Here we may alsodiscern the notion of the energy crisis, threatening that the days of our technology-based civilisation are counted. The chorus recites the text in the following manner:a short syllable corresponds to the crotchet, a long syllable corresponds to the half-note.The chorus imitates the articulation in the speech of computers/robots of thescience fiction cinema: between the words are quarter rests, the comma is rep-resented by the half rest. Interesting effects arise at the prepositions “k” (whichmeans “to”, “towards”) and “s” (meaning “with”), which are treated as individualwords/syllables.The rests are filled by a beat or several beats of the percussions, the order ofwhich is determined by the permutation principle. The percussions but emphasisethe mechanical expression of the final movements.The sentential cadence (the period) is emphasised by an aleatoric entry of trum-pets and trombones with percussions; it is a kind of unaccomplished fanfare beforethe statement of the text. Each such entry is framed by three beats of the xylophone,in which eventually the long symphony concludes. These may well be interpretedas a citation from Beethoven, or as an application of an instrument with an unam-biguous expression (see Danse macabre, the Fossils, etc.). The role of the comicalelement in this tragicomedy should be played by the relentless doubling of the in-dividual tones of the chorus in alternating orchestral groups, among which the bellswere included with a clear intent - to emphasise the seriousness of the tragicomedy.In truth the symphony does not conclude on too optimistic a note; it does noteven provide a classical catharsis; yet never before had I experienced that feelingof closeness of truth as when I was finishing it. (1984)

 

P. S. 2006: This feeling is to return at the writing of the Credo of the Mass.I am foremost interested in the results of the so-called secondary diatonics,which arises as a by-effect of the serial structure. If we really want to follow therule of equality of all intervals, then we should stop the unconscious preference forthe minor second, seventh and ninth in building the series, stop avoiding triads ina dodecaphonic series. All tones are equal, as are intervals (e.g. the all-interval se-ries). It is then that we encounter the afore-mentioned secondary diatonics, whichat first can surprise by its absurdity a person who was brought up listening to do-decaphony. Here is a field for a new equality of expression techniques: the unam-biguous forms of diatonics represent on one hand the early stages of the individualperiods of development (Gregorian chant, Early Baroque, Early Classicism, Ro-manticism); the extreme forms of chromatics are typical for the final (“decadent”)phase (Gesualdo, Bach, Wagner, R. Strauss). Classical delivery can connect dia-tonics with chromatics in a “just” manner. So far in the history diatonics served asa basis and chromatics as an extension - would it not be now possible to have it theother way round? (Notes on the Sonata for the violin and the piano, 1979)It is advisable to study the tonal, rather than personal, relationships. WhenI subscribed in the 1st piano concerto to the consistent work with the twelve-toneseries, it influenced the musical language of the following compositions. Similarly,the focus on the all-interval series had its impact on the expression; yet that isonly to be seen in the unperformed, “drawer-bound”, compositions, starting withColl’Age, in which the phenomenon with a working title of secondary tonality isapplied. During the long work over the 4th symphony I tried to resolve the tonalrelationship in a different manner, from a different point of view.Schoenberg’s discovery of the 12-tone series was due to the effort of ensuringan equal use for all tones of the chromatic scale, so that none of them shouldassume the central role. Practice showed that even the most orthodox dodecaphonycannot bring about such a result; the character of the central tone is determinedalso by the rhythmical (long/short) and the metrical (heavy/light) factors, by thepitch (a low or a high tone), and by the dynamics (forte/piano). In addition thereare the indeterminable factors of psychology and experience.

 

Yet dodecaphonytook hold, created a new audio experience and, significantly, an experience of newexpression; it has proven able to develop and has convinced of being a heir to theprevious late Romantic expression techniques. Most importantly, it gave rise toworks of indisputable value, without which the music of this century cannot not beconceived.Yet the series need not be a twelve-tone one. If the number of tones is increasedor decreased, some will be preferred to the others, and the statistical balance willbe violated. Surely, in some constellations that can be redeemed by suitably cho-sen transpositions. If we use a series, which is a multiple of a 12-tone one, then wewill satisfy this condition. The quaternion (or matrix) serves as an example. WhenI arrived at the product 712, where e.g. 7 instruments play in varied order allchromatic tones, it appeared to me that I could reverse this dodecaphonic principle.The building stone would be a simple major or minor scale transposed 12 times in the chromatic order or round the circle of fifths or fourths. The fundamentalassumption that all tones are equally used is satisfied. Using permutations of thetones we ensure that their relationships gradually escape their tonal character; aninteresting tone material arises, one that is comparable with the permutations of theall-interval series. Except for the unpredictable random combination of chromati-cisms with diatonicisms a new element comes into play — the random repetitionsof tones which are present in the prime series in seven copies. This element didnot exist in the classical dodecaphony; it was simulated by the possibility of tonerepetition.

 

The frequency statistics of tones in tonal compositions are interesting. Themost frequent are the first and the fifth step; the steps II, III, IV, VI and VII occurwith approximately equal frequency, while the chromatic notes are rarer, yet theirabundances vary too. In the minor scale the differences in tone frequencies aresomewhat less pronounced than in the major scale; thus, the minor scale is closerto dodecaphony. Dodecaphony itself represented a new step in development 50years ago, that has been surpassed today. New methods need to be tried out, fromwhich the possibility of a new perspective on the tonal relationships emerges. Theprinciple of tone equality is en gros upheld; it is in details where the tonal (or ratherto say quasitonal) relationships accumulate. If I state in public that the prime seriesof a composition is a sequence of scales on the circle of fifths, there will again besome critics shaking their heads in disapproval. Which provides indirect evidencethat working with the 84-tone series is not a useless excurse. (1981)

 

Not only John Cage was an expert inmushrooming. In 1988 a book by VladimirSolouchin, Hunting for mushrooms, was published for our readers—131 pages ofwriting on where and when in the Russian countryside far away from Moscow thismiracle of nature grows, and on the multitude of ways it can be well served. Thebook is not solely concerned with this topic; in no more than two instances, verysuccinctly in a single sentence, the author mentions some almost forgotten, unbe-lievable tragedies, the consequences of which reverberate till today. The mush-rooming paradise is thus transformed into a perfect “Absurdistan”. The unclearand hardly recognisable fraction of darkness casts a long shadow upon the rest ofenchanting narration; it is only the fraction that is remembered. Such was for avery long time our perception. Given incomplete and partial information on themost serious matters, we were left inferring from some kind of suggestions, un-wittingly uttered fragments, putting together a puzzle that merely hinted at thecruel, naked truth. That was reflected in the choice of the means of expression:the Cantilena is falling apart into a sequence of melodic fragments or into almostunconnected tones in the 2nd string quartet and in the following compositions, inthe 2nd and 3rd symphonies in particular. Obviously, the aforementioned Absur-distan arrives with this on the scene in the shape of a metaphor: the never-ending,tragicomical and unaccomplished cantilena of the tuba; the automatised and overlyheavy-handed rhythm contrasting with relaxed aleatorics. (2003)

 

It is needless to explain all that the decision to write music using liturgic textsinvolved in the period until 1989. I thought of such a piece for a long time, but the final decision came after 25 March 1988, which has gone down in history asBratislava’s Good Friday. I did not go there; the all-day-long showing-off of theriot police cars was intimidating. Yet this was just what evoked the memories ofthe Soviet tanks in 1968, and in retrospect its recognition as a sign of the loomingcollapse of the regime which was to end in the same way as it had begun. Andthere came the idea which may seem contentious from the perspective of liturgicmusic, yet for me it became a source of motivation to work on theMass: to connectthe central movement of the Mass cycle Credo with sound effects reminiscent ofthe day (police car sirens, the rain, water cannons). After the tuba solo of the3rd symphony and the Allegreto conclusion of the 2nd piano concerto yet anotherabsurd piece of evidence is presented, which unfortunately even in this case hasturned out to be true. Really unfortunately? Not quite so; those people were ableto follow the Christ; I felt my duty was at least to capture in music this historicoccasion.

 

Kyrie. A single tone, slow rhythmical values reminiscent of the Gregorianchant, acceleration and slowing down at the words Kyrie eleison, the golden sec-ion. The text is gradually shifted from the chorus to all instrumental groups; theorchestra also “cries” Lord, hear our prayer. The solo voices deliver the sectionChriste eleison — in dissonances as well as consonances, which are, owing tohe technique used discreetly for years, made equal. The concluding Kyrie is aour-voice fugue; at the same time my preludes and fugues piano cycle was be-ng written. On the background of a fugue an instrumental framework emerges —ndeed, this event is an image which will one day be framed —, a monotonicallyexpanding chord beneath the energetic conclusion of the fugue, reminiscent of thecollision in the 3rd part of the Mass. The word “framework” was once used bySuchoˇ n with respect to the defense of the original version of his Krút ˇnava: : :Gloria. The text is uncommonly divided into expressive and cantabile solosand a contrastingly reserved chorus. Thus a tension in the expression is created,which leads to the “foggy” aleatoric passages at the words “qui tollis peccatamundi, miserere nobis”; it flows into a soprano solo and a concluding Amen onhe background of a diminished 6=3 chord.Credo 25. 3. 1988. The centre of (not only) the Mass. Just at the time when Ifinished writing this movement, a substantial change took place—17th November1989, the Velvet Revolution. An unbelievable experience based on seeing whathappened under the windows of my study to be nothing but what I had just beenwriting. Such an event is rare; I wish other composers could experience it. I wouldike to point at the outward similarity between the articulation of the Mass’s textand the concluding movement of the 4th symphony. There it was the image of abrainwashed crowd, the sorrow caused by that image; here the same people stoodup with a prayer on their lips, which at points would slip their mind, since they tooare afraid, since they do not remember that prayer that much, against the superiorityof police force. Nothing more or nothing less is here in this part; after a new fugue“Et vitam venturi” sung and played “con tutta energia” there comes an aleatoric“chaos”, an image of the times that have ended.

 

Sanctus. I returned to the Mass in the spring of 1990, when the situation atthe school and in music life had significantly changed; it was after three months ofexhausting and all but fruitless chairmanship of the new Slovak Music Union. Thefourth movement may most remind of the then recently finished 5th symphony andHosanna could be a kind of gradual transformation of an anthem into a mysticalchant, reminiscent of the atmosphere of Kyrie. The automatised rhythm of a manbeing turned into a robot is present even in the instrumental accompaniment of thepassage Benedictus (the regular strikes of the claves), which interrupts the relaxedsinging of the soloists — changes take longer to be implemented in the mindset ofman.Agnus Dei. In this movement it is again the soloists that initiate the broad-breathed, free vocal expression; it takes longer for the chorus until it starts to singagain. Eventually the calm expression of freedom, though marked by sorrow, dom-inates in the third, concluding and extremely slow choral fugue with the stringaccompaniment "Dona nobis pacem".The clean copy of the composition is dated 22. 2. 1991. Missa Posoniensis (theBratislava Mass) has also become a piece that is waiting for a premiere for years.It seems that this is not solely due to the communist censorship. (2007)

Copyright © 2011-18 Forfest.cz. Stránky archivovány Národní knihovnou ČR.