The title ‘Composer in Dialogue’ stands for a biennial cooperation between the ICI Ensemble and a contemporary figure, the aim of which is to create a kind of ‘work in progress’ through composition itself but also by involving improvisational forms. Performances of pieces thus created remain the intention. The present recording documents an ICI concert with the composer Olga Neuwirth.
Olga Neuwirth began her musical career on the trumpet, before she embraced composition as her favoured means of expression. She remains one of today’s most important protagonists in the field. She can thank exchanges with Adriana Hölszky and Luigi Nono, studies with Tristan Murail, and a befriended author, Elfriede Jelinek, for the path her professional life took.
Olga Neuwirth meets an ICI Ensemble whose calling card is a kind of improvised music that draws on Afro-American roots. Here we must look to Vinko Globokar, Barry Guy, Giancarlo Schiaffini, and George E. Lewis for any explanation. NEOS will now release, after the duo CD JOMO (Johanna Varner & Mary Oliver), the second recording in the ICI Edition.
The most exciting thing about this meeting of musical minds is the feeling that opposites impinge on each other. Here, that which is composed comes into head-on conflict with what has been – or can be – improvised. This simultaneity of determination and random coincidence, the inherent paradox of which is something that especially interests Olga Neuwirth, guarantees friction. As for the medium of live electronics and the use of samples, which have such an important bearing on the way instruments actually sound, these too point in this direction.
Olga Neuwirth likes to describe her music as ‘music for catastrophes’, because just beneath the surface with its confusing patterns of sound – ones which resemble a series of labyrinths – there is a dark undertow that suddenly takes the music in new and unexpected directions. This is how she enables the listener to take part in a virtuosic deconstruction, and experience how sounds are perceived. What are called into question are our aural habits. And what is born is the impingement of possible associations.
Two works emerged as joint projects and were premiered: the first, Who Am I?, is a composition that uses musically heterogeneous material and fragments of Kafka’s Letter to his Father, these excerpts read, however, by a woman. In the second work, No More, Olga Neuwirth incorporates her own writings with lines from the songs of Frank Zappa as well as providing us with an instrumental song, one that “continues to return and which is ‘worked through’, as in the process of Psychoanalysis”, to quote the composer. At the end, only vague reminiscences of The Long Rain remain.
Translation: Graham Lack