Gift and Angels: premieres in Munich in September

I have a couple of premieres in Munich coming up in September. On September 4, my oboe solo Gyfu (gift) will be played by six contestants in the semi-final round of the ARD Musikwettbewerb. This is the 60th anniversary of one of the big competitions for classical musicians, and the Bavarian Radio commissioned the oboe solo for this edition. Other composers commissioned are Naji Hakim (organ), Mark Andre (trumpet) and Lera Auerbach (piano). They change the categories every year and it’s pretty interesting looking at the roll call of previous prizewinners – Heinz Holliger was the winner of the first oboe prize in 1961.

*Update: 8 Sept 2011.  It was quite extraordinary to have this premiere of my work in ‘six versions’  in Munich, each musician presenting a strikingly different interpretation.  Oboist Philippe Tondre gave a particularly rich and detailed account and was awarded the ‘prize for interpretation of contemporary work’.  I also really enjoyed Viola Wilmsen’s performance which was bold and impassioned, as well as Ivan Podyomov’s whose version had a distinctly non-Western air.  Here’s a review: ARD Competition Semi-Final

music of fluctuating tatters…

On September 25, the recently completed
3 Angels, 3 intertwining songs for soprano, mezzo and bass, gets its first outing at the Pinakothek der Moderne performed by members of the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart.  This is part of Escalier du Chant, an installation work taking place over 12 months devised by the conceptual artist Olaf Nicolai.  The work is conceived as a series of architectural interventions involving ‘songs’ commissioned from 12 composers that reflect on current political events.  It certainly was a challenge to decide on the ‘political subject’ which I think of as very tricky territory. Of course there’s no end of things to critique or draw attention to when it comes to issues of violations of human rights, ecological disasters, miscarriages of justice, government and corporate corruption, not to mention the personal-political tragedies that pass unnoticed by the press.

But having a political theme as the subject of an artwork is not necessarily synonymous with the work itself being ‘political’ in terms of how it impacts on a wider consciousness.  That ‘zone’, I think, is rather more elusive and lies in the in-between spaces of fluctuating lived experience, of context and symbolic meaning making. One often can’t foresee how certain objects, events or figures might take on an intensified aura and ‘constellate’ a certain power which can transform people’s thinking (either positively or negatively).

I was drawn to look at the story of Neda Agha-Soltan as an example of this iconic ‘constellated power’.  She was a young woman killed in the street during the Iranian election protests of 2009.  She became a symbol of martyrdom and her image was adopted as a rallying call to political freedom when a video of her dying moments was broadcast on youtube and watched by millions. (There’s an intensely depressing documentary made by PBS/BBC, Neda: An Iranian Martyr. Such is the continuing power of her story that it is subject to heavy censorship in Iran.)

My piece brings together ideas about Neda as a ‘voice’ for certain people, with a more abstract voicing of unnameable power found in Hélène Cixous’ texts which are populated by the intermediary figure of the angel – as messenger of suffering and blessings, as enigma of otherness and of abandonment.

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