Songs from the hill and elsewhere
Concert with Eszter Sári Kövári (soprano) and Bálint Baráth (piano), performing songs cycles by Nikolaus Gerszewski and Chris Newman.
Nikolaus Gerszewski: songs from the hill (2012) / new songs from the hill (2019)
“I chose the lyrics from the volume “the hill” by the minimalist poet Robert Lax, who has lived half of his life as a hermit on the greek island Patmos. His poetic style transcends literary genres, sometimes oscillates between narrative prose and abstract lyricism, even touches the border of concrete poetry; the single word can be emphasized in its phonetic objectivity but is at the same time embedded in a descriptive context.
The music I wrote is sometimes chromatic, sometimes appearently modal, yet not following any musical system in its tonal shaping. The compositional technique is actually rather conceptual, in the sense of using a selfmade (ki? zeneszerző vagy előadó) precompositional setup to reduce the possibilities of choices. Yet the music itself is very intuitional, which is not a contradiction. We have this relation of a conceptual approach with an intuitional, so to speak lyrical result in the works of many great artists of the conceptual period, like Ad Reinhard, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin or Eva Hesse.
As regards content, these songs are all about solitude; a man living in a world of his own creation, waiting for a companion who may never come.”
Chris Newman: modest songs (2012)
“I think that art is definitely trying to get away from personal feelings that we all feel – this way or that way. Art has the ability to embody, make concrete & transcend, help us ‘get through’ those feelings. Not therapeutic, but transcendent.
When writing music I don’t use pitches or rhythms, I use musical material as a job-lot, not its components & really like a job-lot I take what it gives me. I apply ‘things’ to the job-lot of music. The vista of music, the panorama of music. I suppose what interests me is the phenomenon of music & our relationship to it, how it combines itself with us, or at least making models for this. The phenomenon of music & how it combines itself with us. I am wondering if the medium is also ‘merely’ a model for the outside world.”
songs from the hill and modest songs have been premiered in 2012 at Sammlung Hoffmann Berlin.
May 29. 2020, 19:00
Voices from beyond (music)
Concert with the chamber-chorus Klub Konsonanz, directed by Uschi Krosch, as part of the festival for current music Blurred Edges.
VaMH presentation with composer Eva Maria Houben, subsequently paneldebate with E.M. Houben, Nikolaus Gerszewski (organizer, composer) and Uschi Krosch (director of the chorus Klub Konsonanz), moderated by the musicologist Dr Gisela Nauck.
Robert Ashley: She was a visitor, for chorus and speaker (1967, 5 min.)
Nikolaus Gerszewski: Letter, for vocalensemble (2019,UA,20 min.)
Eva Maria Houben: You – and we, for mixed chorus (2019,UA, 20 min.)
The concert’s title is somewhat ambiguous: on the one hand, all three pieces may be labeled as a rather ‘extra-worldly’ music, which refuses an immediate reference to the present; on the other, we are entering an area beyond musical semantics, where sound manifests itself in his mere material presence. In all three pieces, phonetic sounds are applied as basic musical material; in this regard the pieces belong to a similar sound world. Within the aesthetic objective however, there are considerable differences; which may not be revealed through the sounding result alone, but even more obviously through the musical practice. In the composer talk with Dr Gisela Nauck, these different positions are supposed to be furtherly enlightened.
sponsored by Stadt Hamburg and VaMH
May 25. 2020, 20:00
Golden Pudel Club
The suspension of time
Concert with the ensemble Frantic Percussion, as part of the festival for currant music Blurred Edges.
Chiyoko Slavnics: Her teeth were white (for solo percussion) (1999, 7 min.)
Adriana Hötszky: Wirbelwind (für vier Schlagzeuger) (1988, 4 min.)
Eva Maria Houben: 4 for four (percussionists) (2015, 20 min.)
Nikolaus Gerszewski: Flow I-IV (3 trios, 1 quartet, for percussion) (2019, 35 min.)
The percussion instruments have always occupied a special position within New Music; not least because of the fact that the primacy of timbre over pitch, which finally characterizes the paradigm of New Music, is basically given here by nature, and does not have to be generated first, by deconstructing the interval functions. As a result, the element of rhythm can stand out more clearly. The path of New Music however leads to a full elimination of musical semantics, in order to dissolve into pure sound. The role of percussion is hereby not least to deconstruct the semantics of time intervals.
sponsored by Musikfonds e.V.
Sept. 11. 2019, 20:00
Piarista köz 1. 1052, Budapest
Giusto Chamber ensemble performs works by James Tenney and Nikolaus Gerszewski.
James Tenney: For 12 Strings (Rising)’, for 12 string instruments, 1971, 6′
Nikolaus Gerszewski: Shape 25, for 12 string instruments, 2019/premier, 5′
Solid Rock, for 12 string instruments, 2019/premier, 8′
Spike, for 12 string instruments, 2019/premier, 3′
Lining, for 12 string instruments, 2019/premier, 24′
Seam, for string trio, 2019/premier, 5′
After ‘inert mass’, on Atlatszo hang festival 2019, this is the second concert with Giusto chamber ensemble performing my music. This time I chose James Tenney’s process-composition ‘for 12 strings (rising)’, from 1971, as an opener, not least in order to provide a historical context for my own work. With Tenney (1934-2006), who must be regarded the most significant american composer of the post-Cage period, the sound, as a material substance, has finally become fully objectified; ‘music’ is no longer an issue; the sound itself is at the same time form, and medium.
For 12 Strings (Rising) is based on the ‘Shepard scale’, a phenomenon discovered in 1964, by the cognitive scientist Roger Shepart, creating the illusion of an eternally rising glissando. The ‘Shepard scale’ is virtually the acoustic counterpart of the ‘Penrose stairs’, an impossible object, developed by the mathematician Lionel Sharples Penrose and his son Roger, in 1958, showing an endlessly ascending, or descending staircase; this had inspired the artist MC Escher for his famous graphic ‘Ascending and Descending’.
Shape 25 investigates another aspect of the Penrose stairs, namely the moment when the spectator decides whether to follow the upward-, or the downward movement of the stairs. The work features both ascending and descending glissandos, while dynamic relations continuously change, at one time emphasizing the upward, another time the downward trend.
Solid Rock is a massive sound-block, involving no chord progression at all. It is shaped from a 24-note chromatic cluster, of piled up tritone intervals, each pulsing in a different tempo; gradual changes in relations of tempo and volume create a notion of spaciousness.
Spike is another glissando piece; this time the ascending and the descending movements form a spike, leading up to the note ‘d’.
Lining provides a densely woven quartertonal web, spread over two octaves, subdevided in groups of always four notes (within an individual part), constantly repeating, thereby performing changes in tempo, dynamics, mode of attac, and even sequence.
Seam is written in a sixth-tone system, devided in two third-tone scales, shifted by a semitone. While the viola performs a continuous tremolo on the semitone-interval c/db, which forms the centre of the piece’s tonerange, the cello performs an upward-, the violin a downward movement, always across two octaves, both finally arriving at the centre.
Giusto chamber ensemble was founded in 2004, and works basically as a string ensembe. It regularly performs in Budapest and all over Hungary. The ensemble plays without a conductor, under the direction of the solist Erika Litvan. Several premieres of contemporary works are related to the ensemble’s name.