la Biennale di Venezia
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Music


53rd International Festival of Contemporary Music

The Body of Sound

25 September > 3 October 2009

J Futura Orchestra

Friday 25 September, 5 p.m.
Teatro alle Tese
Beste / Varèse / Antheil / Kourliandski
 
- Ansgar Beste Rituel bizarre (2008-09, 12’) for prepared string orchestra, world premiere (commissioned by La Biennale di Venezia)
- Edgar Varèse Integrales (1925, 10')
- Edgar Varèse Hyperprism (1923, 3')
- Georges Antheil Ballet mécanique (ver. 1953, 16’)
- Dmitri Kourliandski Emergency Survival Guide (2009, 10-15’) for car and orchestra,  world premiere (commissioned by La Biennale di Venezia)
conductor Maurizio Dini Ciacci
in collaboration with Porsche Italia
with the support of the Assessorato alla Cultura della Provincia Autonoma di Trento
J Futura Orchestra
 
Edgar Varèse and George Antheil, Dmitri Kourliandski and Ansgar Beste: from the pioneers of the radical liberation of sound, those in the 1920s who pushed back the barriers exploring totally uncharted territory, to today’s offshoots in which these premises germinated. The sound landscape begins to grow in the early years of the “short century”, when with a striking and provocative gesture, the German-American George Antheil (1900-1959) composed Ballet mécanique – this was in 1924 – for 16 synchronised mechanical keyboards, 2 pianos with live pianists, percussion (3 xylophones, 4 bass drums, 1 gong, anvils), 3 of aircraft propellers of different sizes and materials, 7 electric bells, horn. The first performance took place in Paris in 1926 and passed into the annals of history, received with waves of enthusiasm and open disagreement with one spectator who – legend has it – opened his umbrella as though to protect himself from the deluge of sounds… at Carnegie Hall New York, the following year, the performance was a resounding failure.
Born in the full Dadaist era as a soundtrack for the film of the same name by painter Fernand Léger and filmmaker Dudley Murphy, the two works had separate destinies, at least until the present day. The music of Ballet mécanique was performed in its original conception only at the turn of 2000 and thanks to new technologies. Alongside this version, Antheil effected a revision of the first performance in Paris, followed by another revision in 1953, which is still the best known and most performed today.
 
While incomprehension and the difficulties of performing a piece that cast the music into future led Antheil to abandon his research, Edgard Varèse (1885-1965), who was reproached for composing music in too much advance of the years, replied: “It is not too soon, but perhaps too late”. And with obstinate passion, the Franco-American composer, having left Europe for America, never ceased to experiment, over the years influencing many composers in the old continent, and finding fervent admirers to this day, from the Darmstadt group to Frank Zappa, all fans who recognise his thinking and his work to offer the most advanced experience of sound.
Almost all the cornerstones of Varèse’s concise oeuvre appear in the Festival like an underlying thread wire, triggering connections, that multiply the meanings of the works presented in the programme. Hyperprism and Integrales, the first titles offered in concert, are pieces in which Varèse’s aesthetics are made clear: the composer reset all the parameters and organisational elements of the construction of Western music, and began to invert the relationship between the instruments of the orchestra, favouring wind and percussion instruments and creating a new orchestral colouring. The first performance of Hyperprism, based on the idea of breaking up sound as a prism does with colours, isolating individual components such as frequency, duration, intensity, caused a huge scandal, but also marked the entry into a completely new musical universe.
 
Framing the historic compositions of Varèse and Antheil, and representing their extreme radicalization, are Rituel bizarre by Ansgar Beste of Sweden (1981), given its world premiere here with the unusual participation of a prepared string orchestra, and Emergency Survival Guide by Russian Dmitri Kourliandski (1976), composed as a result of a commission from La Biennale di Venezia, with an equally unusual combination of car and orchestra.
 
An exponent of a generation considered heir to Russian constructivism of the 1920s and characterized by a vein of “technological catastrophism”, Kourliandski sees musicians and their instruments as part of a monolithic object, and often they “all” play from beginning to end, as a single mechanism. In the “objective music” of Kourliandski, there is no evolution or action, but simply the creation of a mechanism activated by pressing a button. And listeners are invited to observe the functioning of the piece. “When we put an object in an unusual situation, it loses its usual function and acquires a new one; the situation annuls it, the object is no longer the same”, writes Kourliandski in the presentation notes for Emergency Survival Guide. An object transferred from the material world to artistic space becomes an image, to see or hear; exactly in the same way as Magritte’s pipe is absolutely not a pipe. It is impossible to go beyond the boundaries of art. Even in a car... Following the example of Magritte’s pipe, the composition could also be entitled “This is not a car”.
 
The main idea behind Rituel bizarre instead, writes Beste, “is a confrontation and fusion of two timbral processes. The lower string instruments, from 2nd violin to double bass, undergo a timbral development in 3 equally long parts from a dry and percussive preparation sound to a sustained and distorted bowed sound. This is achieved by 3 different playing techniques: plucking the preparation objects or strings with the fingertip, striking the strings with the fingertip, the palm of the hand, the hair or the wood of an ordinary bow, bowing the strings with a plastic comb or the hair of the bow. The 1st and 2nd part appear as a moderately tensed dance of plucking resp. striking attacks which trigger rattling sounds of the preparation objects. The 3rd part creates a gradual crescendo from a mysterious anticlimax at the beginning up to a culmination and ecstatic ending.
Apart from singular plucking attacs, the 1st violins mainly bow on the strings with the hair of an ordinary bow producing sounds distorted by the preparation objects. The timbral development (in one part) ranges from slow, pedal point-like glissandi via fast, lively glissandi and twittering staccato notes to agitated tremolo motion. These two groups of the string orchestra act as dialectic antagonists who gradually converge in the last third of the piece and finally fuse within the concluding tremolo.
On the whole, the unusual and unexpected sound of the string orchstra along with a repetitive, canonical and dance-like rhythmical structure result in a bizarre and ritualistic musical character”.
 
The concert is performed by the young and dynamic Orchestra J Futura. Founded in August 2006 by a businesswoman from the Trentino, Paola Stelzer, and by Maurizio Dini Ciacci who became its Artistic Conductor, the Orchestra, made up of young people aged between 18 and 30, is emerging as an orchestra with great stylistic and executive versatility, documented by an activity that includes: the “Sacred concerts” in the Duomo di Verona, F. Poulenc’s opera, La voix humaine at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo and the Teatro Malibran in Venice in collaboration with the Fondazione Teatro La Fenice, a series of concerts in Austria, participation in the Festival of Barga and of Wallonia (Belgium). All the projects that the orchestra undertakes are preceded by a preparatory phase carried out by leading teachers. Maurizio Dini Ciacci, as Artistic Conductor of the Orchestra, transfers to the orchestra all the musical experience gained during a career followed in Italy and abroad.
 
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