In Resonance with Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana–Maria Avram

part 3 of interview

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Avram: In electroacoustics it is different. There one can do anything. All is possible, but note the difference between the possibility of organizing and the possibility of realizing. It is a part of the problem.

It should also be seen that work with the spectrum by making additions and subtractions does not have anything to do with a theory of the spectrum. For what use is it to use a living organism which is the sound with its harmonics, to treat it as if it were a dead material?

One will never be able to feel a music as spectral which is not made in this spirit, which does not take account of the sound and its harmonics. The listener must be able at each moment to bring back the sounds which he hears with a fundamental, with a pedal, with an axis which organizes a universe, even if it is an imaginary axis, and then he can even approximate, include, recognize like forming part of the resonance with some other sounds.

Peyet: That hardly has to show the potentialities of the chosen sounds. Moreover, it is a mental construction starting from a model of the sound.
Avram: The music can be beautiful, but has nothing to do with what one says about it. It is different. And afterwards, you can return to the other way of conceiving the idea of the spectrality...
Dumitrescu: We, as you know, we have another prospect, a little simpler if you will, a little more practical...
Avram: More primitive, one could say...
Dumitrescu: Closer to the laws of acoustics. It is simple as in Tibetan music, as in the music of India, as in Zen music. One listens to the savage harmonies, therefore the natural harmonics. That also exists in all folk music, in all the primitive ages of folk music, for example in our ancestral folk music.
Avram: The more a folk music is primitive, the more it is connected to the idea of spectrality, the more it is natural in the sound scales which it employs.
Dumitrescu: Me, in spite of my sometimes scientific readings, which also inspire me, I almost always work in a rather intuitive way. The harmonic sounds are not ordinary sounds, they have a certain natural brittleness. Unheard, infrequently employed in fact, they attract me because of their unique "ethos," which enriches the domain of the sound expression in my music. The way I imagine them, these sounds were little used in European art, no matter how absolutely natural, as you know. Therefore we play with the harmonics, but conscience of the fundamental.
Avram: We truly utilize harmonics.
Peyet: And the fact that the fundamental sound is always emitted?
Dumitrescu: It is not always obligatory because one keeps it in mind, but it flies away in the highest-pitched harmonics. Very spectacular combinations are made...
Avram: It is true that there is an imponderability. You cannot be completely sure, taking into account the technique of the instruments, always to have this harmonic or another. It is in fact more imponderable than the other kind of music, more imperceptible too.
Peyet: A negligible slip of the finger knocks the 20th harmonic to the 21st.
Avram: Yes! That always remains possible, it is a possibility assumed in advance.
Peyet: But that will not be predictable.
Leroy: That will not be calculated at the beginning.
Avram: Because one cannot do it. Not that one does not want to, but because it is known that it is not possible. In the same way in which one cannot calculate the possible trajectory of a moving electron. Thus, quantum physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, could apply to the laws of the micro-sound universe... In musical practice, it does not matter if the sound will slip from the 20th to the 21st harmonic...
Leroy: It is not possible in instrumental practice?
Avram: No, it is not possible. And also not necessary...
Peyet: In fact, I would like for you to clarify this point. When you write an indication asking to play such harmonic, you take in account that it is extremely delicate to produce, very sensitive and that a minute slip of the finger will oscillate the sound obtained between harmonic 20 and harmonic 21, but without one being able to foresee with certainty which it will be?
Avram: But one will not be out of tune if that happens, that will be always in the same spectrum.
Peyet: Do you always take account of this imponderable, unpredictible aspect?
Avram: Yes. It is in fact accepted "a priori" in this music, thus assumed. If not, one would have preferred us to occupy the structure of the crystals... or that seems to be much more solidified, but I am persuaded of it that it is only of appearance...
Peyet: Because often in works of Iancu Dumitrescu, there are harmonic slips like that, and the question arises if they are all explicitly written, and even described on the score. For moments there are expositions, harmonic successions (I would say series...); are those written explicitly, or then is it written: "from this one to that one" knowing that a great number of paths is possible?
Avram: It is often the case, but it is still not a rule, because we work a lot with people. The human potential is very important with the acquired experience with performers who always play our works. And, you imagine that such a music solicits the maximum the artistic force of the performer.
Dumitrescu: ...because it is also a state of initiation in this domain. When you see it from afar, you have the impression of something almost arbitrary, but it is not the case at all! It is not that!
Avram: Because of that, the personal work with the artist, the performer, is very significant. Each work is born from a similar confrontation, always renewed. The player, I suppose, grows, develops in the achievement of such a work.
The Hyperion Ensemble
Dumitrescu: You have the impression that it is very complicated, and that it is almost impossible always to obtain the objectivity, therefore to remake the same crossing of notes, but when you rehearse, when you begin to work, and re-enter in the depth of the question, of the problem, you begin to discover the technique which gives very precise solutions, therefore which give a possibility to write, to compose, as rigorous as the classical, because there are not an infinite number of solutions...

They are two or three possible combinations which one obtains by calling upon the naturality of the sound. There is a fundamental sound, after which one starts like that, it is not possible to obtain anything else than a well-known crossing, almost well-known, precise, it is contrary to what you had said. There are not so many possibilities of harmonic paths.

Moreover, a composer does not live in a haze, he asserts limits which by-passes the arbitrary. But it is true that at once—because it is like that in the music—a passage of development arrives. It is a passage of culmination, an amalgam of several voices, thus you are not able to believe that each musician still is conscience of the fundamental sound and all that... You ask whether there is not something a little impromptu... how to say... arbitrary agitation... something which comes, which forces, which pushes the performers towards a different idea, apart from the technique related to resonance. In fact they are very precise indications, always specified in the score: "press hard with the bow," for example, but these things are very clear from the point of view of orchestral technique, I want to say that there is no doubt of the effect to obtain.

Avram: They are very precise practical details which obliges the musicians to arrive at the anticipated sound result...
Dumitrescu: ...and which always gives the same result. But evidently one can compare it with the classical music...
Avram: Always all the same in certain margins.
Dumitrescu: One cannot permit one hundred musicians to improvise on stage! Already, it is already too complicated, to risk any more than you do! There is a slight flexibility. In the classical music, in 18th century it is a question of a very simple music if one compares it with contemporary music, is it not? But there is also a variation, a margin of chance...
Avram: But the variation is included, it is assumed by the score. It is possible that in such margins it would be ok. The problem is not to be found outside these margins. The conclusion would be to say that in all music there are certain parameters fixed and others mobile, which take different values each time the music is played, but these parameters differ according to the times and current styles.
Dumitrescu: Even if one cannot be the aware of all the things, of all the harmonics in a passage, as one knows the probability that it produces such event if one plays the seventh position with the violin for example, with heavy bowing... that always gives precise results. Or well equivalents. It is a very precise composition, but which respects the sound naturality, the acoustic naturality.
Avram: Finally in any music, in all musical style, there exists a rapport between freedom and precision, and the differences concerning the parameters implied in this rapport.
Dumitrescu: For us, the music is something which gives freedom. We make the music for that, even to obtain freedom of the mind... To tell the truth, the crisis of contemporary music also comes from the fact that the composer became so removed from the instrumentalist, from the player. They now form two almost opposite poles. Formerly, any composer was, before even writing a line, a virtuoso of one or several instruments... Brahms, it seems to me, was among the first not to be able to play his violin concerto... When the instrumentalist is outdated by the thought of the composer, when the composer considers the performer idiotic and continues his ranting in the laboratory, what of the public? The public couldn't give a damn about this music. And then, the poor violinist, who does not like to work eight hours a day to be booed at the end of a concert, advisedly refuses to deal with the new music. From here, as you can see, my attachment, eagerness, my obstinacy to work directly with people... With their sounds.
Peyet: In fact, rather than to say to the musician: "play such harmonic and such harmonic, that one and these," you say to him to play in a certain way.
Avram: It is obligatory to offer the solution, apart from a sound model established for a long time! Yes, because if you say to him "Play such harmonic," the musician will play a more or less real note, but false. Thus, it is always necessary to give the solutions practically and not to impose a result... the result. Always because the result, we know it, and we know that it will be always reached as soon as the technical conditions are accomplished.
Dumitrescu: And that, that always exists in the music. For example when one plays the music of Webern, a complicated music, one cannot always comprehend, the perspective of the entirety, of the whole. Each musician of an orchestra cannot have an absolute comprehension of the entire ensemble, of all the music. But he respects it in his score, he is almost like a soldier. One respects in a movement the indications of the score, without being conscious of what in general occurs in the music. It is the conductor who manages and who has the general image. It is not alleatoric what occurs in our music. It is something very determined. More than that, because it is phenomenological.
Avram: There is a degree of freedom in our music. I repeat it. But there is no art deprived of freedom.
Dumitrescu: Because it is phenomenological, one starts with something, one has a direction towards something, that becomes an obligation impossible to divert. When you do not enter the direction you are not in the score. When you do not succeed, you cannot comprehend what is necessary to do, which is the music, which is the score, but on the other hand when you are in the right direction, everything becomes very simple, very precise. You then enter a kind of determination.
Avram: For example, in the interview [Text in French -ed.] that I made a few years ago with the musicologist Harry Halbreich, he says in connection with the music of one of our colleagues, Horatio Radulescu, the following fact, that he found very attractive and which was a revelation: the moment when the music was played as it was necessary, therefore that the musicians were in the truth, there was a certain melody which arose, but only in the moment when it was played, as it was needed.

These melodies would arise by the means of the natural resonance, which would produce certain harmonics not arising otherwise. They were not written, they had to result from a recombination from different spectra from various instruments, which produced melodies similar to those of Romanian folk music. Halbreich would speak about Romanian folk music, that he knew, but it was to truly speak of pan-folk music, another degree which was not in reality, which was not material, not physical.

Dumitrescu: But that intervenes only when the tuning is absolutely perfect, natural, when one is conscious of the fundamental, of all the fundamentals, and all is respected. That can be made only with the pure intuition about which Husserl speaks.
Avram: And it is certain that each one can achieve it. I had experiences which I really never believed would be successful. For example, I did not have the impression that I was going to make a success of an ensemble of twelve very young artists forming the saxophone ensemble of the CNSM of Paris, directed by Claude Delangle. They were people who had never played any multiphonics, who had never done similar things, and in a truly record time, in two days I succeeded in doing exactly what I wanted, what was indicated in the score, very imponderable things. And each time, after they comprehended, after they realized what it was a question of, they succeeded in making these imponderable things without any problem.
Leroy: Doesn't that require, precisely, to reach this level, before even starting to play the score, a certain state of receptivity?
Avram: Absolutely. To the maximum!
Leroy: But more precisely, and in a simplistic way of course, I imagine a musician getting off the subway, he is there with his worries, he arrives in the room of repetition. Is there something, a technique which enables him to disregard that, to arrive in this "virginity?"
Avram: There also resides, I think, the charisma of a true conductor.
Leroy: Is this also the direction of which you speak and which must create the music? To be able to concentrate?
Avram: That also belongs to the charisma of the conductor, to be able to deliver the favorable state, to be he who is in front and must make the music. Even before he plays a simple note. Even before or right after [laughs].
Leroy: Because at the time when the person puts down the score and prepares to play it, he already has it in spirit. During ten minutes or fifteen minutes the conductor will try to forget with the musicians the concerns external to the music and thus lead them to concentrate on the score. There are many techniques to which one appeals, but which are no longer musical. The musical techniques are there when the musicians perform, but before?
Avram: I do not know, that cannot be explained. That belongs to the instinct of each person.
Leroy: Something seems to me a little paradoxical or antinomic with phenomenology, it is the practice of an instrument. One cannot learn an instrument immediately. There is no spontaneous practice. One precisely needs a memory which accumulates. It is thus a little contradictory, no?
Dumitrescu: No, it is not contradictory. It is like an athletic exercise to arrive at one moment when there is a trigger, by discovering the direction and sense.
Leroy: Yes, but one never treats this knowledge with disdain! On the contrary, one intensifies this knowledge.
Avram: One transcends, after that there is this knowledge.
Leroy: But it is needed, therefore it is necessary to pass by this horizontal dimension to reach the verticality. I wanted to say that if phenomenology calls on the verticality, on the instant, on the spontaneity, it cannot separate itself to reach the horizontality which is the knowledge.
Avram: No, precisely, it coagulates verticality. One coagulates what was already learned.
Leroy: In the play of the instrumentalist. But it is necessary that there is this... verticality all the same. One can never separate the two.
Avram: But one should not take things obligatorily like that, the knowledge... But even for phenomenology, for the phenomenological approach, there is a technique which is learned, and which should be exerted. It is something... which is discovered. An instrument, if you want, that is learned by successive steps, by "jumps."
Dumitrescu: Which is activated in the same way. At the interior.

Celibidache speaks about the fact that one evening, when he was already for some time a conductor, he gave several concerts, with several rehearsals, but at the instant, during a pause, in the middle of a concert, in front of a mirror, he had the catch, the intuition, "époché:" [the Greek word Husserl employs for the moment of pure intuition: the paranthese of all the non-significant things, to could concentrate on the essential -1999 update] to direct. For the first time he had the trigger of what he must do...

The young Celibidache

The tragedy of the musical life in general, if one speaks about the orchestra, comes from conductors who disturb the general atmosphere. The most important thing in music, for an ensemble, it is to listen to itself, to listen to each other, thus knowing what you do, what I do. At every moment there is a reactivity. I make a small decrescendo for example, or small crescendo, you come with me, and one can really carry out a very special quality, in the moment when all that intervenes without any extra sound impulse, extra musical, when a whole orchestra transcends towards the same thing because it feels the need for a direction towards a little loud, a little soft, a little rubato, it is something which is not explained, and which even does not move. But in general the conductors have ears of...

Avram: of wood!
Peyet: Really?
Dumitrescu: Of wood, I do not know... without explaining more, it is that reality, it is a tragedy, it is a scandal! Why should "interpretation" be eliminated? Because it is subjective. And if we admit subjectivity, one arrives, with a group of musicians in chaos, or in a "dictatorship" of the conductor, in the arbitrary. Both of them, unacceptable, I think. The music requires parameters absolutely impossible to handle as one wants it as a conductor. I let the music construct itself. It is that...
[Ronsen: You've mentioned subjectivity several times, yet still I am confused on the issue. It seems to me that the subjectivity is important. With the objective—the common number as Ana-Maria said earlier—why do I need you to present it to me? I assume that I am capable of finding this common ground, or is that the difficult task (as attaining Zen-Enlightenment is difficult)? It seems I should be interested in what I myself cannot find, what only you can find. Isn't this the basis of what is so valuable about your work? Or is it that the objectivity acts through us in different ways depending on our background or circumstances?]
[Avram: Josh, your question is the essential point to understand phenomenology. Which means a different way to use and to understand subjectivity. As a superior form of Cartesian criticism, phenomenology appeals to subjectivity. To the consciousness of the subject. Phenomenological subjectivity is different from psychological one. In fact you want to say that unicity, and difference, and originality is important, not truly subjectivity. Subjectivity in psychological approach, that means that I understand differently the things than you do. That means that no one can perceive and understand anyone else. That goes to solipsism. The fact that you can understand our music, that's the proof that I can recover myself in you, and in him, and in somebody else, and vice versa. Communication and art, even in particular, indeed things would be impossible otherwise. There are a lot of composers and producers of experimental music who send us their works as to a guru, which speaks nothing to me. I can't recover myself in it. And then, with regret, I can't answer them anything. I don't say we don't like it, but only they are engaged on a different, completely subjective direction which we can't pursue.]

[Sure, to discover in a philosophical sense what means the common ground could be assimilated with a Zen Enlightenment. Sure, we all are interested in something that we can't find ourselves, but to identify and understand to somebody else what you missed, that means that you can recover in what this person did, in those ideas and so on.]

[This is not possible in pure subjectivity, that is chaotic and solipsist.]

[Objectivity never acts in different degrees. It is or not. It is absolute.]

[By "epoche," by elimination of the conjectural thing, you can begin to feel the pure subjectivity, in phenomenological sense, that means the pure intuition, the direction of things. The intentionality. Where? Things have to evolve. This can't be subjective. Only when you can perceive at this degree, can you be sure that another has to communicate to you something that you missed, but you can understand.]

[Then what is really important is to eliminate (by "epoche," which is a Zen technique, finally) all the epiphaenomena, the jammings, the unimportant things, but first to identify which is jamming and not important, to arrive at something essential.]

Dumitrescu: It is necessary that I always listen. There is a reactivity. An orchestra with a good conductor is a fantastic family. If there is one true conductor per month, a conductor inspired, a conductor who listens, it is already an event in my opinion. Everywhere, here in Paris, anywhere, in Berlin, in London or Bucharest, the musicians play mechanically, they fill their service, by doing all that they can do, but without even listening to their music stand partners. It is like that. It is a tragedy.
Avram: And to listen to it does not mean only to have the same bowing, the same bowing pressure. It is much beyond that!
Dumitrescu: It is the same thing for contemporary music. We come now to contemporary music. What happens? They play like that. They play some marks on the score. They repeat without knowing what it is, without knowing where is art, if it is something true. Without having any preexistent sound image of the work! Without seeking one. To try to assemble works like ours, it is necessary to have completely special conditions. Which should be normal conditions, but which are never granted to this kind of music. It is necessary to have somebody who can make music, somebody who has a technique of conducting, a good technique to lead. After that, one needs somebody who can imagine what occurs in the score, because a score like that is more difficult to imagine than the classical scores with so many references. These scores are full of secrets.
Peyet: And Boulez, then...
Dumitrescu: This that happens with conductors, even Boulez for example if it is seen that he does not direct music other than the dodecaphonic music or [Elliott] Carter, for me that seems like an incomprehension of the new music...
Peyet: I ask myself if it's true?
Dumitrescu: I would be afraid to give to Boulez, for example, even if I was sure that he is a great conductor, that he is a musician of very good quality, I would be afraid to give him one of my scores because I have the impression that he does not have the experience necessary to know what happens when unheard energies of such tension begin to pulsate. The conditions must always be special.
Avram: For that, we only work with a few conductors. All that should not take much time, finally. That should not be so long, if one masters all the data.
Dumitrescu: After a few minutes, things enter a direction... They are... it is almost impossible to destroy the direction, when one engages it. It is interesting. It is an incredible force. For that I say that it is not the chance, it is the determination, it is more than the concrete perfection. It is the Implacable.
Peyet: A determination by the substance of the music itself?
Dumitrescu: Yes and no. When you think like that, when you start to see the substance, of having a concrete contact with the substance, it is impossible that someone took you there. Obviously if there is a conductor or a musician who is like that, a little mindless, if he is making some "efforts." It is necessary to make true efforts to come out from there, from the good direction, when you're engaged, and to return in the false.
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