Feb 16

An Evening of Luigi Nono

Ekmeles performs a program of works relating to Luigi Nono, featuring music by Italian composers as well as Nono’s aesthetic forebears in the Franco-Flemish school. The concert will feature works for up to eight voices, showcasing the virtuosity of the Ekmeles vocalists in a range from the highest soprano to basso profundo.

Nono’s own Sarà Dolce Tacere will be set in relief by a wide  range of styles. Giacinto Scelsi’s Tre Canti Sacri represents Italian music before Nono, while Salvatore Sciarrino’s 3 canti senza pietre is a striking example of the contemporary Italian scene. Medieval works by Josquin and Ockeghem, aesthetic forebears of the kind of compositional rigor characterizing Nono, will round out the program.

Following Ekmeles’s set, violinist Miranda Cuckson and sound artist Christopher Burns will perform Nono’s La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, or “The nostalgic, utopian, future far-distance. Madrigal for a ‘wanderer” with Gidon Kremer, solo violin, 8 magnetic tapes and 8 to 10 music stands.” While the electronics are molded in real time, the violinist adds her singing voice to the polyphonic texture, as suggested in the composer’s markings. This duo’s recording, of the same title, was declared Best Recording of 2012 by the New York Times.

  • Salvatore Sciarrino – 3 canti senza pietre (1999)
  • Josquin des Prez – Mille Regretz (15th c.)
  • Josquin des Prez – Nymphes des Bois (15th c.)
  • Luigi Nono – Sarà dolce tacere (1960)
  • Johannes Ockeghem – Missa “Fors seulement” – Kyrie and Gloria (15th c.)
  • Giacinto Scelsi – Tre canti sacri (1958)

Ekmeles personnel for concert

Apr 12

The hazards of pitch reference

Intrepid soprano Christie Finn has written a lovely blog post about her relationship to absolute pitch and the tuning fork, specifically in our work on the upcoming Quando Stanno Morendo. I can verify both the chopstick difficulties and the tuning fork bruise.

Apr 12

Nono in extremis

Preparing our upcoming performance of Nono’s “Quando stanno morendo” has been, as the piece is, a study in extremes. The work’s glacial tempi (down to quarter = 30) destroy the listener’s (and often the performer’s) sense of meter and time. If that weren’t enough, these tempos are coupled with a system of numbered fermatas wherein each digit indicates the duration of the note in quarter notes. This means even a sixteenth note quintuplet at quarter = 40, with a ‘5’ fermata, would last more than 7 seconds. This dilation of time has the paradoxical effect of heightening the intensity of its passing. Placing a note on the third triplet eighth of a beat in quarter = 120 is a simple matter of feel. Placing the same note at quarter = 40 puts the whole process under a magnifying glass. Any discrepancy between performers is thrown into relief.

The singers dealing with these broad tempos are also grappling with extremely wide ranging parts, marked pppp and quieter. Aside from these technical considerations, there is a deep political and emotional background to the work, which was written during the onset of martial law in Poland. These extreme emotions of both the context in which the piece was created, and the texts it sets are balanced by a dynamic restraint. With the difficult registers and dynamics bordering on silence, Nono very literally evokes the stifled voices of political dissidents.

This is a piece that on one hand appears simple, often consisting a single line shared between voices, or chords moving in rhythmic unison. These voices however, may be projected through a 10 speaker array, rotating around the audience both clockwise every 10 seconds, and counterclockwise every 7 seconds with 2 seconds of delay. The cellist plays only open strings in one large section of the work. These however, are open strings on one of three cellos string with 4 identical strings and tuned to 4 near-unison tones, played with two bows simultaneously. These amazing juxtapositions of simplicity and complexity, of technical virtuosity and emotional directness, are what allowed Nono to go to such extremes and still create a balanced and coherent masterpiece.