1. To The Memory Of (2016) (56:16)
· Nikolaus Gerszewski: piano, objects
· Lenke Kovács: vocals
· Ferenc Getto: vocals, objects
· László Németh: trumpet
· Dorottya Poór: violin
· Nóra Lajkó: guitar
· Julien Baillod: guitar, feedback
· Andor Erazmus Illés: electronics
· Erik Benjámin Rafael: percussions, objects
Composed by Antoine Beuger
Realized by Conceptual Soundproductions Budapest
Recorded at the Doctoral School of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, Budapest, 05/02/2017
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Zsolt László Kiss
Graphic design by László Szakács
a group of people forgathers
together they engender a space for individual sounds or words to appear
a space, not least, for themselves to appear to one another
an unconditional space of conﬁdence and mutual recognition
a pure “space of appearance” (Hanna Arendt)
is this possible?
is it possible to withstand the lure of being more organized, more well-deﬁned,
more in control of what “we” are,
of what it is, that we are doing?
more determined about who or what belongs to “us” or what we are doing
and who or what doesn’t?
we can at least hope for it
I hope playing and listening to
to the memory of
may strengthen this hope
“As someone who listens to music pretty all day I am very happy to live in a generally quiet neighbourhood. But sometimes even in a quiet neighbourhood it is not easy to play something as Antoine Beuger and this piece commissioned by an organisation called Conceptual Soundproductions Budapest. As the name says it ‘describes a form of sonic art in which conceptual elements dominate professional considerations’. It is more about the process than the actual piece. In 2016 this organisation asked Antoine Beuger to compose a piece, which consists of the words ‘silence’, ‘words’ and ‘silence’ and every one of the nine players makes their individual choices. Beuger of course being one of the important composers to come from the Wandelweiser group, which he founded, where silence plays an important role and scores can be graphical or merely instructional. It seems to me that ‘sounds’ are in the first half of the piece and the second half, or even a little bit more, consists of words. Silence is something that is featured throughout this release, but more in the second half than in the first half. The words spoken are very quiet and in between there is always a few seconds of silence. It is so quiet that serious amplification must be sought. The music half, the first half is also quiet but by comparison this is almost very loud. The instruments used include piano, objects, trumpet, violin, guitar, feedback, electronics and percussion, next to voice of course. This is some very quiet music, with lots of space between the sparse notes, but not something one sticks on for relaxing. Meditation is perhaps something I could see even when some of the tones may come across ‘harsh’, especially the ones from objects. This is something that is best enjoyed when one keeps the full attention going and listens to this in total silence and uninterrupted. Only then, I should think, the beauty of this becomes clear.” / Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, 13 February 2018
“Conceptual, c’est vraiment le cas de le dire. Les notes de pochette de Nikolaus Gerszewski mettent l’œuvre, sa réalisation et la philosophie qui la sous-tend en contexte. Parsemés dans le silence, se font entendre tour à tour les interventions solitaires / solistes ponctuelles de chacun des musiciens vocalement ou avec leur instrument respectif. Dynamiques et intentions semblent être la prérogative de chacun d’eux. Il n’y a pas d’indications « paramétriques » dans les instructions / la partition. Les sons (ou le son) joués par chaque musicien à chaque intervention est considérée comme une pièce en soi. Les mots parlés sont sensés apporter une dimension poétique et interviennent de plus en plus fréquemment dans la deuxième partie de l’oeuvre jusqu’à ce qu’ils remplacent les instruments. Comme si cette suite interminable de ‘solos’ ultra-courts était en fait une conversation secrète, codée (en langue magyare, généralement inconnue des locuteurs indo-européens que nous sommes). Un dialogue distendu par le temps.
Je pense que cette œuvre nécessite d’être vécue et écoutée en concert plutôt qu’en disque. Les musiciens sont concentrés et démontrent une réelle capacité à ne pas jouer cette musique n’importe comment. Chacune des interventions étant très courte, l’élément conducteur est la variété / multiplicité insolite des différentes attaques et caractéristiques sonores de celles-ci au fur et à mesure que musiciens et auditeurs avancent dans la pièce et l’intention – l’intensité – le lâcher prise de l’exécutant créateur. C’est l’élément Ba-ba de la musique en fait, où le musicien doit concevoir instantanément ce qu’il fait au moment où il le fait, même s’il a la liberté d’y penser bien avant, vu que chacun joue plus ou moins à tour de rôle. D’où sans doute la signification du mot conceptuel. En tant qu’auditeur, je m’arroge la liberté d’interpréter la musique pour moi-même. Une œuvre intéressante. Le label inexhaustible editions est sûrement un des labels les plus pointus de la galaxie improvisée – alternative.” / Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg, Orynx-improv’andsounds, 24 September 2018
“Beuger wrote this piece in 2016 for this ensemble, Conceptual Soundproductions, founded by Nikolaus Gerszewski in Budapest. The score, as described by Gerszewski in his detailed liner notes, simply consists of the terms ‘sounds’, ‘words’ and ‘silence’. Any realization of the piece becomes, obviously, highly dependent on the choices made by the performers involved as well as the largely subjective evaluations of same made by the listener. I’m inevitably reminded of the wonder, if likely apocryphal, story of Morton Feldman who, when conducting a rehearsal of one of his graphic score works, brought things to an abrupt halt and stared angrily at a member of the ensemble (a violist, purportedly) who innocently pointed to the section in play, and said, ‘But it just says, Play three notes.’ To which Feldman replied, ‘Not those notes’.
Here, the ensemble is nine members strong with Gerszewski (piano, objects), Lenke Kovács (vocals), Ferene Getto (vocals, objects), László Németh (trumpet), Dorottya Poór (violin), Nóra Lajkó (guitar), Julien Baillod (guitar, feedback), Andor Erazmus Illés (electronics) and Erik Benjámin Rafael (percussion, objects). In his notes, Gerszewski expresses surprise at finding no indications of ‘soft’ or ‘very soft’ as one might expect from Beuger and queried him about it, receiving the assurance that Beuger ‘simply did not want to exclude any sounds’. Given that, it’s up to the listener, should he or she so desire, to determine whether or not the particular realization somehow ‘succeeds’ or not (leaving open the question, also partially broached by Gerszewski – something I’ve thought about a lot re: many of Manfred Werder’s works – whether or not there needed to be a performance at all, much less a recording). To my ears there’s something missing, or perhaps too much in play. The ‘silence’ of the score, while of course present, is not on equal footing with the word and other sounds. Put simply, there’s not enough of it for me. More to the point, there’s too much regularity in the lengths and pacing of the silences. In fact, that’s my main problem overall: a general level of uniformity in sequencing and dynamics that strikes me as overly bland, not so much like any carefully observed aspect of life (or a tiny slice of same), too much the sense of a ‘list’. I’d also have to leave open the probability that I’m missing something from my failure to understand the words spoken in Hungarian.
Given this, Gerszewski reports that the composer, upon hearing the recording, said, ‘I am totally inspired’. While I wouldn’t go that far, I’m happy enough to have this addition to the ever-growing library of Beuger compositions/realization and if I prefer many of the others, some listeners may find this approach more to their liking. It’s fine and, to be sure, evokes the score, just doesn’t quite sync up with my own sensibilities.” / Brian Olewnick, Just Outside, 21 December 2018
“A little piece of new Wandelweiser for your delectation, here courtesy of Nikolaus Gerszewski and his entity Conceptual Soundproductions Budapest (CSB). Gerszewski plays piano and objects, Lenke Kovács vocalises, Ferenc Getto uses voice and objects, László Németh plays trumpet, Dorottya Poór violin, Nóra Lajkó and Julien Baillod both use guitar, Andor Erazmus Illés employs electronics and Erik Benjámin Rafael manipulates percussion and objects. Although To The Memory Of is a very simple written score, with remarkable clarity and restraint, something along the lines of ‘sounds, words, silence’ – as, perhaps, you might expect from the pen of Antoine Beuger, Gerszewski and co take a vigorous approach to it. Gerszewski says: ‘…My attitude, as the director of the ensemble, was to view an individual sound as a piece in itself, a sonic object that should be consciously shaped in every aspect, as any other work of art should be’.
Of course, the work produced by members of the Wandelweiser collective may not be for everyone, but I personally love the purity of expression of it. Admittedly, a musical concept that favours silence and restraint will probably never be populist, exactly, despite Stuart Maconie’s recent well-intentioned efforts to showcase it on one of his BBC Radio6 programmes. Predictably, Maconie and his guest Andrew Male try not to too obviously play it for laughs when predictably referencing John Cage and ‘silence’ in their good-natured way, but one wonders how well any new or challenging music comes across in this sort of context really.
Essentially, To The Memory Of is made up of little islands of sound; placed with stupendous care. Marvellously diverse, carefully pre-‘shaped’ sounds are employed by the musicians, creating a kind of meta-Wandelweiser experience. The score is interpreted as well-paced, unctuous and unexpected blasts of orchestral components. Elements are presented one at a time, independently of each other for very short durations. In the sleevenotes, Nikolaus Gerszewski posits the following: ‘Beuger has repeatedly confessed to the practice of unintentionality, as introduced by John Cage in his event-piece 4’33”. However, whereas Cage was primarily concerned with liberating an individual sound from its semantic functions, Beuger is also concerned with liberating the individual performer from their function of executing compositional instructions’.
Mostly, the sounds are recognisable as coming from the instruments that made them, although occasionally there is a perplexing surprise: at 15:28 I have absolutely no idea what that is. At 20:45 there’s a scream, I’m assuming it is human, but whether it’s uttered live or it is the playback of a pre-made recording is unknown. One of the nine musicians are responsible for it, most likely either Kovács or Getto, but I’m not entirely sure I could reliably guess who. This unexpected unknowing forces the listener to consider what they have before them very carefully; and not enough music does this to my mind.” / Paul Khimasia Morgan, The Sound Projector, 2 April 2019