Thursday, November 17,2011:New Music, New Times
November 17 is an official Czech holiday marking “The Fight For Freedom and Democracy,” otherwise commonly known as 1989′s Velvet Revolution.
There’s a kind of velvet revolution going on in classical music, too. You can find it in music labeled “new music,” “contemporary,” “experimental,” and a few other terms designed to fit with a new generation. But as with every type of revolutionary change, it has its own resistance movement.
Hanuš Bartoň is a highly-credentialed teacher and composer whose new, contemporary work, Marcia Funebre, will premiere in Brno Nov 23 and in Prague Nov 24. We wonder what you should watch for in this contemporary piece, a kind of funeral march, when you hear it in concert. – Especially if you’re more comfortable on the resistance side of the issue. So we asked Mr Bartoň about it.
“Marcia Funebre is based on a melody of the solo electric guitar,” he tells Opus Osm, “so everything that the accompanying instruments play is derived from this guitar solo.” During the whole composition, watch for a harmony and rhythm that is repeated with only minor changes.
“The guitar enters into this background with a ‘funeral song,’ the original theme,” he explains. “The guitar should gradually almost absorb the sound of the ensemble and then disappear again in it.”
Mr Bartoň, who heads the HAMU composition department, says the work’s name comes from the characteristic rhythmic pulse that reminds him of a funeral march. “During the composing, when I realized this property of the rhythm, I adjusted the other parameters to fit: instruments playing mostly in deeper registers, the characteristic melodic turns imitating the familiar elements of funeral marches,” he says.
Listen to it Live
The composition was completed in summer 2011 for Ensemble MoEns, which will perform it and other new works at 7:30 pm Nov 24 at the Lichtenstein Palace.The Marijan Ensemble from Brno will open the evening with four works.
The “MoEns” is a group of composers and performers based in Prague, whose aim is to offer professional performances of contemporary new music, thereby encouraging creations for the ensemble. The group commissions works by young composers, records Czech contemporary music for Czech Radio and on CDs, and participates in international music festivals.
“I like both classic and contemporary music,” Mr Bartoň explains, “and as an interpreter I try to divide my forces between both fields. Old music is beautiful and perfect. But the strongest experiences come from the contemporary sphere.”
He explains a little more: “Only a part of the music of the past has survived to our time. We get only the best.
“But contemporary music is different: probably only a small part of contemporary music reaches the same level of quality as the ‘classical’ music opuses, which have already passed examination through the process of historical selection.” He suggests that perhaps some integrated style blending classical and contemporary will be identified and named only by our future descendants.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait that long. You can witness the musical revolution as it’s happening right now, in your own time, and make up your own mind. Surely, there’s something here for everyone. – oo
– Mary Matz
Photo Credits: Ensemble MoEns website