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la Biennale di Venezia
Main Visual Music EN (new)


Ictus Ensemble

Saturday 1 October at 4:00 p.m.
Teatro alle Tese
Fausto Romitelli (1963-2004) Trash Tv Trance for electric guitar (2002, 10’)
Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) Ikhoor for string trio (1978, 10’)
Harry Partch (1901-1974) / arr. Tim Mariën (1975) Barstow (1941) and The Letter (1943, 14’) Italian premiere performance
from the Wayward Cycle for voice, microtonal piano, microtonal guitar and zither
Eva Reiter (1976) Alle Verbindungen Gelten Nur Jetz for Paetzold flute, percussions, electric guitar, cello and electronics (2008, 10’) Italian premiere performance
Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) Sonate in Urlauten (1932, excerpts, 10’)
Hikari Kiyama (1983) Kabuki for solo saxophone and 6 instruments (2009, 15’) Italian premiere performance
percussions Miquel Bernat, Gerrit Nulens, cello Geert De Bièvre, bass clarinet Dirk Descheemaeker, guitar Tom Pauwels, piano Jean-Luc Plouvier, flute Paetzold Eva Reiter, viola Jeroen Robberecht, flute Michael Schmid, violin George van Dam, lighting and set design Eric Verberdt, sound direction Alexandre Fostier
conductor Georges-Elie Octors
A concert with many original ideas will be offered by the Ictus Ensemble of Brussels, which includes the figure of a sound engineer among its musicians, demonstrating the attention and familiarity of the group towards anything that has to do with electric instruments and electronics. Directed since its foundation in 1996 by George-Elie Octors, the ensemble has collaborated with the finest choreographers, such as Wim Vandekeybus and his Rosas company, and since 2004 has been in residence at the Opera Theatre in Lille. For the concert in Venice, the Flemish ensemble will unveil works by rarely-performed authors such as Harry Partch, or anomalous composers such as Kurt Schwitters, along with the more famous Iannis Xenakis and Fausto Romitelli, and thirty-year old composers Eva Reiter and Hikari Kiyama.
A visionary composer, whose fetish instrument is the electric guitar, Romitelli composed Trash TV Trance in close collaboration with the guitarist of Ictus Tom Pauwels. A trash piece, which presents technology in the form of trash, of an uncontrollable element; television, because this music is made to watch and not just listen to; and finally trance, because the work seems to be sucked into an endless cycle. The electric guitar is connected to an amplifier similar to the ones used by rock guitarists with a series of pedals (distortion, delay, wah-wah), but most importantly a loop machine. “With two hits on the pedal the guitarist indicates the beginning and end of a sequence that the loop machine must memorize; a third stroke is the sample that is thereby captured and restored in the form of an endless cycle. The musician can then introduce a second sample, or better yet as many as he wants, that will be overlaid on top of the earlier ones. This way he creates a vorticose cycle that is increasingly complex, following a logic of accumulation. It must be said that a given sample can be eliminated (erased from the general structure), and at the same time it can be reversed in time (listening to it like a ‘tape in reverse’). The cycle generated by the loop machine creates a very rich instrumental background, sometimes violent and saturated, against which the music played directly by the guitarist stands out to emerge in the foreground” (J.L.Plouvier).
Between guitar riffs borrowed from the worlds of the blues, hard rock, ballads, atypical sounds made by running a bow, a sponge or a coin over the strings, a technique typical of avant-garde techno music is also included at the beginning of the piece, when the guitarist unplugs the cord that connects the guitar to the amplifier, creating that sort of buzz that sounds like a technical malfunction, but which enters the network of the loop machine, and is transformed from an “accidental” sound to a musical one.
A great humanist with a passion for technological experimentation, Iannis Xenakis has been an architect (he collaborated with Le Corbusier), a mathematician, an lover of philosophy and the Classical Greeks, of atomic physics, electronics, all studies that converge in his work as a composer. The process of formalization of this anti-sentimental author – as one of his famous admirers, Milan Kundera, wrote in an essay entitled “The Prophet of Insensibility” – actually, and almost paradoxically, produces music with great dramatic potential. One example is the piece in the programme, Ikhoor, which as is often the case with Xenakis, refers to the rich symbolism of Greekmythology, in the title that indicates “the transparent ethereal liquid that circulates instead of blood in the veins of the gods”. Commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture, the piece was written for the French String Trio to which it is also dedicated and which performed it for the first time on April 2 1978 at the Opéra de Paris.
“Listening to Partch is not necessarily pleasant, his music is permeated with an inhuman pain, stubborn and inflexible, like the social rejection he experienced throughout his life” – wrote Salvatore Sciarrino. Yet this outsider of music and life, so rarely performed in Europe, is, along with his predecessor Charles Ives, one of the American composers who opened new prospects in the history of music.
Harry Partch grew up in the early twentieth century in small towns between Arizona and New Mexico, with Presbyterian ministers, Chinese immigrants and native Indian tribes, witnessing the decline of the “Old West”. But in this extraordinary cultural melting pot he brewed the seeds of his musical theory, based on microtonal scales and the “right intonation”, consequently creating an entire range of new instruments that would generate an absolutely original kind of music. He would describe himself as a “musician-philosopher seduced by carpentry”.
Tim Mariën has re-elaborated, specifically for Ictus, The Wayward cycle – a series of songs that grew out of Partch’s wanderings through America during the Great Depression. The version presented by the Ictus Ensemble is therefore a completely new production for voice and modified instruments. Out of the entire four-part cycle, in Venice the ensemble will perform Barstow, the texts of which are based on eight graffitis left by hitch-hikers along the highways of California, and The Letter, a real letter that Partch received in 1935 from a friend who was a vagrant like himself. These are pieces which have been rewritten in many versions, composed by Partch between the early Forties and the late Sixties, each of them the result of new instruments invented by Partch. “I accepted the challenge, explains Tim Mariën, of approaching this highly personal work, taking its essential characteristics and transferring them into a new form. A form that contemplates microtonal instruments that I have conceived myself, though they are not like Partch’s”.
Inspired by a poem by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, the piece by Eva Reiter, Alle Verbindungen Gelten Nur Jetz (All connections are only valid now) addresses the relations between instruments. “At the beginning, the sounds of the instruments only join one another gradually to weave a complex pattern, then, as the music develops, these bonds break repeatedly and splinter violently: a ploy that with some difficulty arrests the flow of energy. Like in other pieces by Reiter, the instrumental sequences are covered by the sound of industrial machinery, in this case the powerful typographic printing machines from Heidelburg that actually seems to snort. Inserted into a basic scheme, the sound of these machines determines the rhythmic development of the piece… Each sequence of sounds is complementary to the sounds on the tape, but also to all the other instruments involved. The musicians must make extremely precise movements within a rigid, limited interval of time to achieve the desired result: the ideal blend of live sounds and taped sound.. The performers are asked to play like machines and they are not allowed free development in space. Alle Verbindungen gelten nur jetzt, in the final analysis, plays with the limits and constraints of the intricate and almost absurd mechanism of plausibility” (from the programme notes).
A painter and poet, Kurt Schwitters, the “creator of Merz”, as he would write in his epitaph, was born in Hanover in 1887 and lived through all the avant-garde currents of the early twentieth century, to which he made a significant contribution. Schwitters started a current in the Dada movement that he called “Merz”, a name he invented when he cut out a poster for the Commerz Und Privatbank and which he declines depending on the type of works he creates. Though his specialty is the art of collage, which he builds using waste from industrial processes, over time he expanded his horizons and everything became “Merz”: “Merzbild” and “Merzbau”, houses conceived as great works of art, theatre works and a series of phonetic poems.
His Sonate in Urlauten, written in four movements with many ironic references to the classical sonata form, is an original example of sound poetry, for an actor-musician-reader. In an imaginary language, used for its sonourous and rhythmic properties alone, Schwitters offers his performer the perfect material for an explosion of extravagant virtuoso vocal energy. The author himself regularly performed his Sonate in Urlauten, developing and re-elaborating it several times until he finally set down the indications for the recital in the last issue of his magazine Merz, in 1932.
Hikari Kiyama turns to an intimate Japanese genre, Kabuki, a popular theatre form that has come down to us from the XVIIth century, characterized by its highly stylized approach and the makeup used by the actors, two elements that serve to interpret stories and characters. “The history of Kabuki began in 1603 when dancer Izumo no Okuni performed a type of musical drama in the dry bed of the river in Kyoto. The individual ideograms that form the word kabuki mean song, dance and art. Therefore the word is sometimes translated as ‘the art of singing and dancing’. This composition also shows song, dance and art. The first part, “song”, shows the intonation of the Japanese language (the tonic accent). Then, elements of dance and artistic skill are gradually combined” (Hikari Kiyama).
Fausto Romitelli (Gorizia – Italy, 1963-2004) – From the “Giuseppe Verdi” Conservatory in Milan, to the Accademia Chigiana with Franco Donatoni, to the Scuola Civica in Milan, to the IRCAM in Paris, where he collaborated from 1993 to 1996 with the équipe Représentations Musicales as an experimental composer, Fausto Romitelli won international fame. His works are performed today by famous ensembles – Intercontemporain, Itinéraire, Niuew Ensemble, 2e2m, Recherche, Caput – and in many festivals and musical institutions – the world music days of SIMC in Frankfurt, Stockholm and Lausanne, Gaudeamus of Amsterdam, Ars Musica in Brussels, Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Steirischen Herbst in Graz, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Radio-France, summer sessions at Darmstadt, Settimana musicale di Siena, Nuove sincronie in Milan. Initially focused on the experiences of French spectral music, especially by Hugues Dufourt and Gérard Grisey, to whom he dedicated the second piece in the cycle Domeniche alla periferia dell’Impero (1995-1996, 2000), Romitelli would pursue his personal experimentation outside of the cultured avant-garde “concentrating in his music an eloquent expressive content and a violent sonorous impact with a complex formal structure” (R. Milanaccio). His last work was An Index of Metals (2003).
Eva Reiter (Vienna – Austria, 1976) – Working as both composer and instrumentalist, she studied the flute with Rahel Stoellger and the viola da gamba with Johanna Valencia at the Music University in Vienna, graduating with distinction in 2001. From 2001 to 2006 she completed her studies in flute with Paul Leenhouts and Walter van Hauwe, and in viola da gamba with Mieneke van der Velden at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, earning her master degree “cum laude”. Currently she is very active as a soloist and with groups specialized in Renaissance and Baroque music such as De Nederlandse Bachvereeniging, Ensemble Mikado, Le Badinage, and with contemporary music formations such as Ictus, Klangforum Wien, Trio Elastic3, Duo Band. She won the SKE Publicity Preis in 2006, the Förderungspreis from the city of Vienna in 2008, the International Composition Award Reine Marie José also in 2008 and an honourable mention at the Rostrum of Composers in 2009. her compositions have been performed in international festivals such as Transit in Lovanio, Ars Musica in Brussels, ISCM World New Music Festival in Stuttgart in 2006, Musikprotokoll in Graz, Generator and Wien Modern at the Konzerthaus in Vienna.
Kiyama Hikari (Konk, Okayama – Japan, 1983) graduated from the Joto High School in 2002 and from the College of Music in Tokyo in 2006. He continued his studies at the Royal Dutch Conservatory in The Hague and studied composition at the Royal Conservatory in Mons (Belgium). He has studied with professors such as Minoru Miki, Louis Andriessen, Daniel Capelletti, Carlo Forlivesi and Claude Ledoux. He won first prize at the Associazione Musici Mojanesi. In 2007 he won first prize at the 13th Young Composers Meeting. He was a candidate for International Gaudeamus Music Week in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009 he was a finalist in the Vth Jurgenson International Competition for Young Composers (Moscow, Russia). He won second prize and the Public Prize International Ensemblia Composition Competition in Mönchengladbach 2009 (Germany). He was nominated in the International Composition Competition “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space”(Melbourne-Australia, 11-22 October 2010). He received the City Award from Boulogne-Billancourt in the composition competition in 2011 dedicated to educational pieces.