In Resonance with Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana–Maria Avram

part 4 of interview

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Peyet: Therefore in your scores you explain what it is necessary to do rather than what note one must hear.
Dumitrescu: Usually, I even make two staves. One in traditional notation, if I can put it like that, and a bar with the position and a description, for the strings for example, indicating how the fingers are put, where it is necessary to push. For example on the G string of the violin there is first finger, obviously A flat and B flat, C, D, E if one moves the pinkie a little. I write the position. It is a position A, for example, on the G string, but when playing with the bow "sul ponticello," very near to the bridge, with a specific pressure... it sounds... different.
Peyet: By moving the bow in a very precise way?
Dumitrescu: Very precise, yes. Generally.
Avram: And then there is a bar where Iancu Dumitrescu sometimes marks the effect, he suggests...
Dumitrescu: ...the results. In any event for the first measures, I do it almost systematically, but after it is not necessary any more, therefore I note only the position. The instrumentalist knows that he plays on the G string, he plays with four fingers, does he not? It is something very concrete, but sounds differently, "acousmatic" and on the other staff, there are the harmonic sounds, therefore the effects. What does that give? There is the tablature and there is also the effect: the result
Avram: That also works for the wind instruments.
Dumitrescu: It is very concrete.
Peyet: And for the evolutions of sounds? They are always combinations of fingerings which make it possible to transform the sound, but you do not write "open the sound on this interval?"
Avram: It is quite possible to write that as well. For the winds also, there is a combination between the words which one writes, a drawing which must suggest the evolution of the timbre, and fingerings, for the microtones, there are always the fingerings, (otherwise there is the risk they'll play only "real" notes) to emphasize certain sounds. That is also valid for my scores...
Dumitrescu: But the notation of the effect is also related to the [air] pressure. If one speaks about the clarinet, there is a pressure if one wants to have rich sounds in the first zone of harmonics, one leaves the lips a little free, slackened, on the other hand if one wants to obtain the highest harmonics, one tightens the teeth, one tightens much, it is a pressure, and one injects a significant pressure of air on the reed.
Leroy: Precisely, since you speak about the way in which you use the wind instruments, but there is sometimes the impression, in particular in the work called Grande Ourse, which you [Dumitrescu:] make the bassoons sound like horns. I thought of the musics of Tibet a few moments ago, you referred to them a little...
Avram: There, in "La Grande Ourse," they are prepared bassoons.
[Ronsen: How does one "prepare" a bassoon?]
[Avram: Well, if you can prepare the piano, you can also prepare the bassoon, or other instruments as well. Iancu made them play with the exit orifice stopped by a skin instrument. Also small wood pieces put into some of the keys and orifices, etc...]
Leroy: And another question: generally, for all the bow movements, for example, in your scores, how are the specified?
Dumitrescu: There is another thing. That belongs to the rhythm. There is a whole theory with the rhythm; if you have patience, I can state something rather particular on that. Always, in all the fields of the music, of the composition... I call upon primary, primordial things.
Peyet: How did you obtain, how you could obtain the truth?
Dumitrescu: I had a premonition and after some time I discovered - obviously without other means than intuition at the beginning - that it is possible to make another music, different from the "new music." I felt like a "necessity," a "great change." All these new musics are, to tell the truth, unnatural things. I was disturbed by that, by the artificiality. In my meditations I start by posing between brackets the historical evolution of music. I believe that the historical evolution of music is an evolution... which came with a work very thorough on paper, apart from the artistic reason, of the phenomenological reason of the music. Therefore apart from a true contact with sound, with the "biology" of rhythm and as now I speak only about rhythm — I had the intuition to see that natural rhythm is rhythm distinct from the musical, cultural rhythm. The European traditional musical rhythm is a rhythm which is articulated by meter...
Avram: And always foreseeable. Even if the meter changes.
Peyet: That also gives pleasure...
Dumitrescu: Even if the meter changes, because one can do that: one two three / one two / one two / one two three four... these are complications that I cannot... detail. It is as in the music of Stravinsky, it is a little repetitive, but it is... even with simultaneous changes of tempi and [value of the unit], they are always rigid cells. Stravinsky is a splendid case, but there are still many musics which are written with the measurements combined like that: three, two, five, etc... The music of Boulez, it is an incredible complexity to carry it out. There is a rhythm which is obtained on paper, therefore one makes calculations like that, abstracted a little and one comes afterwards in the concert hall and that becomes music. In my opinion, that is only little, or not at all natural, an exaggeration of the mind if I can say that.
Peyet: A play of the mind, a mental construction.
Dumitrescu: A play, yes... During that period, in what concerns me, I believe that to succeed one must arrive in states of a rather great concentration. I even obtained states... of a hallucinatory transparency. Sublimation... I live, suddenly, something very clear: the pulsation of the Thing, the pulsation in oneself...

I have the revelation of the fundamental rhythm, the natural "Hauptrythmus" rhythm. In these moments, all the rest appeared too explicit to me, banal, very artificial.

At that time -- and it still remains valid -- I noted that nobody raised the question of a new discovery in the domain of rhythm. Apart from Messiaen. Messiaen has, of course, a revolutionary contribution: the rhythm related to birdsong, inspired by the traditional musics of India, symmetrical structures, not retrogradable, etc, of the "modes" of rhythms; what still? the "chromatic" rhythm, exceptionally valueable to me.
Iancu Dumitrescu

Peyet: One can also say that of Varese...
Dumitrescu: Well, in this period, (when my readings reached the level of the mystic, Joseph de Maistre, Meister Eckhart, of the hermeneutic, but also Eliade, Yoga, etc.)... I had, with still more facility, the revelation of primary things. By exercises of a maximum concentration, I had the image, the revelation of the fundamental rhythms of Being, of life. Different from the rhythms of musical culture... Which are related to meter, with paper. That is even more valid for contemporary music than for others: see Boulez, Stockhausen during his first period, Nono and all the others...

All this conception of rhythm, I put it between parentheses! That, after having used in my youth all these principles, to be honest.

This new revelation, I then "combined" it with ideas that I had on science, the semiotics of numbers, an "ad hoc" numerology which I configured. Finally, to summarize and simplify a little, in this design, I consider each number-figure corresponding to a rhythm having an unique individuality. Having an "ethos," an ethics, an esthetics in itself. There is thus the rhythm of the "one," the "five," the "three," "thirty three," etc... Each has a different image. No possible confusion! It is not only a quantitative difference, but of essence. Generally, the type of accent which gives an impulse to the first attack indicates the numerical "monad," of each rhythm's entity.

Peyet: How do you obtain this surprising result?
Dumitrescu: I always obtain this image - I repeat it - by a concentration, if you want, by Yoga, or, better still, a "phenomenological reduction;" as in this case I find the Yoga concentration more profound, of a different nature as well, I would say that I employ both...

After having succeeded in isolating the en-static [from e-stasy, inside, reverse of ec-stasy] sense of the rhythm, to reduce the "three" (to reduce the "essence" from the "three"), I pass to the following rhythm, and so on, in a sequence of lights followed by shadows. Repeated.

Therefore by these profound concentrations, I manage to surpass the opposites, the polarities. To reach this unity, this primordial ONE, which is the absolute. Thus, do you understand, I remove all the dualities, the multiplicities of contingent reality, and I can have, by a technique which always makes this result possible, to reach the absolute.

Peyet: ... [... -ed.]
Dumitrescu: Thus it is: "ta-ta-ta-ta;" "one-two-three-four" that, for "four." And for "three" it is "ta-ta-ta."

Thus, concretely: I imagined a rhythm of "ONE." It is a little unusual to say that. A rhythm of "One." What does that mean?

Peyet: It is visionary, that!...
Dumitrescu: And a rhythm of "two," of "three?" I made then an operation of introspection to discover how to explain the difference between the one and the two, the three and the five, the five and the seven. I retrogress a little. There is an active part, it is always like that: an active part and a passive part. Therefore: ONE it is the movement when the action, the beat is listened to, and there is also a pause; if one does that in a laboratory, artificially, one has an active part equal to a passive part. But when one discusses on esthetics, in the domain of esthetics, that complicates: the action of the active part gives a deformation of the inactive part. When the "one" is accentuated more, or more extremely, it is necessary that the pause is a little longer.
Avram: If ONE is sharper...
Dumitrescu: If ONE is sharper, like that, stacatissimo, without any shortening that will be very different... without force, the pause will be a little compressed too. Now one can speak about "TWO." It is "ONE two," therefore "ONE TWO." "ONE TWO" active, "one two" passive. "ONE TWO THREE," "one two three." It is always like that, and that depends on the interior and aesthetic force, ethics of the line of the phrase, the tension...
Avram: ...of the nuance, the timbre of the instruments too. If you have three triangles that will not be the same thing as three timpani. Certainly. That will have a completely different sense.
Dumitrescu: And the pause can be even lost... It is like a small nervous explosion in the cosmos and the passive energy is lost, dissipated. For that I invented another language. For classical music, the rhythm was something which always held of a determinism, but, nevertheless, there too, it is not possible to quantify, to say which is the good play... Thus, there, though always measured, the rhythm, when it is "lived," takes a slightly different form. It is the "agogic."
Avram: But in your music, this "agogic" acts in a different way. The accent of the beginning is completely different; it has another character.
Dumitrescu: I thus propose to the conscience a "emptiness" as in "Zen" and thus, the discovery using pure intuition, without any contamination of a European cultural prejudice, of this monadic identity of each number-rhythm.

At the moment, that can appear arbitrary, but, by concentration, it becomes accessible.

In this manner one discovers that such a rhythm has two facets. In accordance with the principle of the vacuum and the full. For the reasoning, for example, there is a moment of action, and after it is a preparation to take the second step. And as I discovered that there is an active aspect and an inactive aspect. Because with pure intuition, I wanted to seize what is the natural, biological rhythm, the "grund" [German for base/cause -ed.] of the cosmic rhythm, the rhythm in quantum, subatomic physics, biology - to give you two or three examples - the systole and the diastole...

The inactive part, it is like the shadow of the moon, if you want. Therefore the hidden face of the moon. The nonactive part is a part which prepares. It is silence. But at the same time draws, projects a tension, anticipates the character of what will follow.

Avram: The future. This which follows. It is always a charged silence. It is not an inert silence.
Dumitrescu: Each rhythm has a continuation/rest in its pause. The rhythm is not continuous, nor metric. That can appear arid to you but... it is nevertheless very simple if you engage yourselves to the way of my thought.

With regard to the poly-rythym, the superposition of rhythms, this does not exist, nor a metric which would coordinate the verticality: these are monads [elementary building blocks] whose meeting is contingent. It is a juxtaposition: like the extra-systoles of my heart in this moment are parallel to your palpitations, which are, of course, different. But all can be found in a same space. They are "given," "objective" things that one cannot deform or intervene... To not to annoy you any longer, I stop here.

But what in my opinion is significant: for a long time from the point of view of rhythm, my music is conceived starting from these principles. And that is valid from the poundings on the tam-tam to the most subtle beats--which also create a rhythm--of two close harmonics. From the succession of "rebounded" sounds to the viola and "pizzicati" to the violoncello until the groups of two, three, five notes of the piccolo.

It is a unified principle, which governs the entire development of my music. For that I invented another language...

It is, in my opinion, an abstract theory but which comes, I already showed it to you, I believe, which comes from the natural. But that enters in a state of objectivity, of causality which entraps you, you cannot leave.

Leroy: What is the indication?
Dumitrescu: If you insist, I give, I always indicate numbers, in a manner almost... maniacal; I need to be able to specify essential details! But in the case, for example of a free string, one very long duration, it will be always played with rhythmic variations of the bow movements. These variations obviously will also contain numbers.

What/how is the pause that follows the active event? The pause is determined by the accent which preceded it. I do not know "what/how" an abstract way. Its dimension is alive, no matter what... "numeric"... quantitative. If there is somebody who is prepared for that, when it is in action, with work, he starts to immediately comprehend what it is, even if now you find that a little obscure. Even very obscure, isn't it? but you need to know, that appeals to the musical instinct of human sensibility! It is given!

After the played sound, it is the pause about which I spoke. I can note, for example, if it is a question of the number "two," two small eighth notes with two eighth notes of rests. Afterwards: "five," that depends. All is noted, but all corresponds to a unique, original theory and practice, which you can detect in-depth only in "exerting" together. In asking the same questions together! By traversing the same experiments.

Avram: And there were results brought together with very different artists, because there is not only Fernando Grillo who plays this music. There are at least hundreds of performers who worked with us... to speak about the soloists and the ensembles also, while always arriving at very close results.

The Hyperion Ensemble

Does that again appear to you "improvised," perhaps arbitrary? But it should not be forgotten that it is only in the European tradition of the last 4-5 centuries, at the most, that you find this ambition to note everything in a score. Most important, essential, is what one owes to the living, oral traditions... If at some time the musical practice had stopped in the long run, do you imagine that today, only according to the scores found in libraries, something similar could have remained living? Could we, today, play Mozart in the same way? I doubt it extremely.

Besides, in many other musical cultures, even very sophisticated, complex, like in India, in Japan, in China, no matter what there was a perfected notation, it always remained there, in the music, a side which was learned only by long exercises which held of the "experience;" one would exercise while "living" a rhythm, a mode, a pause...

And, to return to our manners of noting the scores: if, in a similar musical thought, one nevertheless uses measurements, it is to have reference marks for a unit, because one should articulate the sound surfaces. There is only the reference mark, in the bar of measure, but not the sense which normally has the meter.

Dumitrescu: In what I do, the score is determined in its parameters, but is not regulated by the meter, by mechanical frameworks; it is only determined internally by the effect of an energy, starting in a manner, then developing with the interior impulse [elan] of the first sound. There is always an occult proportion.
Leroy: The initial energy?
Dumitrescu: The initial energy, yes. For me, the beginning is essential, the rhythm is articulated, but in the measures it is juxtaposed. When there is a dialogue and you play with me, on a drum, for example... there is something which implies the spirit... like in jazz.
Leroy: It is a mirror effect very often. Reflections, references...
Dumitrescu: Yes, it is also... like a panic. You begin to panic and what are you doing? It is also an important motive in my technique, let's say spiritual, to "attack" slightly the performer because he...
Avram: He has inertias...
Dumitrescu: He has an inertia, which owes much to Boulez, for example, because for him there is always only this exact side, measured, very complex, but which can--which even must--occur from the "lived!" It is too external. On the other hand, I count on the implication as I said it, because... how is that explained? When I rehearse with a musician and he fails to enter in my score, finally, as the concert approaches, he feels himself more and more "attacked." He is thus obliged to do something. And thus he discovers himself, inevitably, which I thought, which I dreamed two months ago.

You see, I count on the panic. Moreover, it is an authentic cognitive revalorization of the music. The musician, as I conceive it, wants no more that, in any way, to be "minimized," as if unconscious... like an instrument... (here, perhaps the idea of an "instrumentalist," somebody "manipulated"). No more to be reduced to the aesthetic issue either, as it was until not too long ago.

Avram: The act to compose is developed from the cognitive point of view.
Dumitrescu: Therefore by the music we find ourselves... We discover what we did not know... We are filled with wonder by the unknown which surrounds us!

It is enormous! And that, not only because we comprehend the music - it is not a question there obligatorily of a concept - a suite of sensations, a incarnate theoretical idea... but of something... which is "burned" in us, lived, traversed, like a prayer, like an "ISICHASME," as in ZEN. A technique which brings... the Deliverance to us! Which defeats any dependence in us, any slavery! It abstracts us from the daylight and projects us in... eternity. The eternity of a moment...

As I said, I moved towards the primary things, first, towards these essential re-definitions... As the music only becomes, I accentuated in my reasoning, not, the non movement, stiff mortification, but the transformation, the nuance in evolution. The modification of parameters. But it is not that modification of the forms, as it can appear, but also of the essence, of the morphological senses, therefore... all evolves at each moment, in my music.

In place of the themes, motives, thematic developments, if you analyze my music, you will find only the principle of conductibility.

Avram: The scores are very precise landmarks, as much as they can be, also very precious, which symbolize, schematize the fundamental energies of the musical thought..
Dumitrescu: I make scores for me. I have my personal writing, it is for me. It is like drafts, scratch pads. Good, this is some score, although they are for me and for my performers, my companions who are familiar with the things with which one works frequently, who have had the same experiences with me, in connection with me or on their own side. They are sensible things, but I generally finalize this process, I finally make scores for publication, the definitive scores.
Avram: This also is important: we revive an epoch when things can again be noted and understood. Perfectly even. Or almost. Things which one believed impossible to be transmitted only by the notation, but by a direct way, by the presence which obliged the composer to be on stage. One time when things are positioned back little by little, when with the musical technique. And the scores return, find another... statute, are not any more under the sign of orality, or that of a fixed structuralism - two extremes having, each one, their limits.
Dumitrescu: It is clear that it is not only the score which counts, because in the score, it is written fortissimo, attacked, I do not know what. That is not yet the music, it is true. But when somebody comes who does not have a correct representation of the things, he does not have any possibility of making "true music" (and that is also valid for any music!). The things must be "lived," they are not immutable, of course, but it should not be understood, for as much, that they should not be respected. To be able, really to "read" a score is a cardinal thing! It appears that there is a contradiction, but in fact, it is precisely that!
Avram: Celibidache said: "I refuse, before the concert..." (He makes ten or twelve days of rehearsals, but before the concert. He works all the details in his rehearsals.) He thus says: "I refuse to know what I direct and I come to the concert emptied, almost emptied or entirely emptied, that depends on my possibility."
Dumitrescu: Of his force... to forget.
Avram: Celibidache thus said: "I do not know if I start with Beethoven or Brahms. I do not know which symphony, which number. I begin."

I can explain to you how he starts: emptied like a Zen monk. He starts with a gesture, it is thus the divine gesture. It is something... It can be any way, but obviously he does it a little as he knows it, there is a margin of freedom. After this sign, comes a sound, and it is the first sound which becomes a reference mark for a development, which for the first time is discovered under development, in dialogue, the first discovery. As if he had never worked this music. Finally, it is the only manner of remaining a human being, a thinking being in this trade where one becomes very easily a machine.

Leroy: Without repeating each time the same things.
Dumitrescu: That is disconcerting!
Avram: A thousand times the same music! To make the same music thousand times in a life! It is horrible!
Ana-Maria Avram
Dumitrescu: What a trade! Is this possible that, to make the same thing thousand times? But where is the great moment of art? In my opinion, it is when one looses the feeling of time. For example when one sees a film which is a true creation, of an absolute beauty, one loses the sensation of time, one loses the sense of temporality.
[Ronsen: What film? I am curious.]
[Avram: I think only a few.... everyone has his own films I think, when he looses the feeling of time. For me these are those of the first period of Antonioni.... But I watch movies only during my gym exercises, because I can't read then.]
Avram: Because finally for the majority of people, and even among those who make music, there is a time, and after there is a music which engraves itself in time.
Dumitrescu: But this is false.
Avram: In the music of today, it is the music itself which creates its time, its own time. Time exists only at the moment when the music creates it. It is the time which the music generates. There is no other! It should not be forgotten. Space is created by the fact that there are bodies. There is not a space in which would then fit something. The things create their own space; their own time.
Dumitrescu: It is interesting. Also, what to think of the musicians who write explicit durations in seconds on their scores, I do not know which special combinations of numbers? They believe that the value of the music resides in this mechanical relation seven out of sixteen, of thirty five on ninety-six... If the performer makes the least error, all collapses!...
Avram: And then after if they have common sense... On stage, sometimes, that which has common sense (but it is rare!) see that it is completely different, they are not three seconds, that lasts ten seconds. There is an incredible difference between two seconds and ten seconds!
Dumitrescu: On stage you cannot control the duration. It is necessary to control the music, which finds its own duration, tempo, truth.
Avram: It is necessary to have the common sense to acknowledge which one cannot control the tempo on paper: one can only give very relative references...
Dumitrescu: Only perhaps like a suggestion, but when you note seconds... That is too precise. There are even composers who... [lowers the voice as to entrust a secret] change the notes! That is incredible! They wrote thousands of notes, but after they say to the musicians: "No, no, it is not like that. Can you try it this way in fact. Yes but there you do it like you feel, as you want." (!)
Avram: Even Xenakis, in connection with calculations he makes, you know... He modifies the results afterwards.
Dumitrescu: But what is significant, which I wanted to really say, it is that the truth, in art, is not obtained without mystery, emotion, without the "lived!" It is especially necessary to have boldness in your ideas, they must be disconcerting, stimulating... If not, what is all this play? All this... "uselessness?" The music, it is to transpose the life in the abstract, in the "metaphor." For that, here thus all my tirelessness, which could appear external. An enormity! But that is not it! Not at all! In an artistic milieu like that of the present, which one finds oneself in a true impasse, at this end of the millennium, and, for that matter, try to resume in a manner more than coarse, vulgar even, some process of yesteryear, impoverished, now, of all energy, of all spirit. Me, I continue to "see," however, a possible, infinite purity of art.
Peyet: Is it truly possible to arrive at the light?
Dumitrescu: By an effectively profound search, calling into question every assumption, you arrive, nevertheless, with the light! And when you reach this... "freshness" of the search, of the study of the nature of things, you can only become optimistic! The paths of art are infinite! Innumerable! If you divert from this fundamental search, like a simple "free" artist, a thick, opaque, impenetrable wall bars your road. If, on the other hand, you start from the elementary, with this spirit of search, the sense of creativity is interminable!

Knowing to place oneself in space of the artistic thought is, if you want, wisdom and astuteness. Somebody says to me: "here, I fixed myself well, I know, mathematically, all the assumptions of my future evolution... I could not begin my work before all to know with precision."

Well, I strongly doubt all that! I answer: I am only sure of that, always eliminating what I note as being a possible ballast, I will have the chance, perhaps, to arrive one day, finally, of knowing what is art. Thus, of being able one day to place myself in a significant "point!" I could thus look at. See. I would have clarity. I would sense the authentic.

Leroy: Is it not too fragile, in fact?
Dumitrescu: In fact, we belong to a "minority." A possible, but nevertheless minute artistic group where "fragility" still counts. It frightens you, this "fragility?" "Fragility" is the condition, even of man! Balance is always fragile! The music is almost a metaphysical form of survival! Nothing in the music can be "preserved" one moment to the other. It escapes us, it "flees!" conceals itself from the conscience of the performer, of the composer. What we consolidate one day, collapses the following day... That's mad! All is valid only in the moment.

But in fact, all the immense qualities of music reside in its "fragility." I ask you, for what still counts, today, these evanescent subtleties?

Thus for that, I say "minority"... Survival... We are survivors. But strong!

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