Kornél Fekete-Kovács Different Aspects of Silence

Painting silence with sound is like painting water with fire, dancing the stillness of stones. And yet this is what trumpeter and composer Kornél Fekete-Kovács is attempting now on his Different Aspects of Silence album, together with the Czech Robert Balzar Trio and vocalists Veronika Harcsa and Dan Bárta.
Six musicians seek notes played with responsibility and contemplate the concept of silence. Kornél Fekete-Kovács, artistic director of Modern Art Orchestra, met the Robert Balzar Trio three years ago and has been collaborating with them regularly ever since. Their musical reflection was rounded out with two very different vocalists, who nevertheless easily found a common thread. The multifaceted Veronika Harcsa, with her supple mezzo soprano voice, is joined by highly popular and charismatic tenor Dan Bárta, who started out as a rock singer. Their explorations offer 21st-century listeners, alienated from the experience of silence, a nuanced musical insight into its different aspects.


Artists

Kornél Fekete-Kovács – trumpet
Veronika Harcsa – vocals
Dan Bárta – vocals (2, 6, 7, 9)
Vít Křišťan – piano
Robert Balzar – double bass
Kamil Slezák – drums


About the album

Recorded by Bence Dóczi and Viktor Szabó at BMC Studio on 1-2 July, 2021
Recording assistant: Ábris Blaskó
Mixed and mastered by Gergő Dorozsmai at Tom-Tom Studio

Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár


feketekovacs.com
harcsaveronika.hu
danbarta.cz
robertbalzar.com


Reviews

Olasz Sándor - Riff (hu)


3500 HUF 11 EUR

Kornél Fekete-Kovács: Different Aspects of Silence

01 Secret Passage (Křišťan) 3:38
02 Dob és tánc (Fekete-Kovács/Weöres) 7:08
03 The Guest House (Fekete-Kovács/Rumi) 7:27
04 Old Square (Slezák) 4:16
05 The Judgement (Fekete-Kovács/Ilka Magyar) 8:52
06 He is Here (Fekete-Kovács/Ilka Magyar) 3:26
07 The Night (Fekete-Kovács/Blake) 3:06
08 Sacred Path (Křišťan) 4:12
09 Community of the Spirit (Fekete-Kovács/Rumi) 7:40
Total time 49:51

"So Listen"

Samā: this is the word the Sufi tradition uses to refer to the sacred, sung poetry performed with the dervish dance, though the etymology of the expression in Persion actually leads us back to the art of listening. Legend has it that one day, the thirteenth-century poet and philosopher Rūmī was walking at the market, and hearing the song of the goldsmiths as they praised Allah, he started to dance. Today, the ritual of the whirling dervishes is often no more than a tourist spectacle, but whilst art means self-expression, the original meaning of samā refers to altruistic, self-sacrificing expression, the submission of the self to a greater force. According to the father of the Mevlevi Order, and for other exponents of the Sufi tradition, the task of the musician is to conjure up the melodies of the celestial spheres, and if this is only dimly possible, the first prerequisite of remembrance of God in meditation, or dhikr, is silence. But how to grasp this concept? Musicians are, after all, by their passion and their task, bound to instruments.
This Gordian knot can of course be unpicked. Thus in one poem Rūmī encourages us to look through the window of music into the garden of our souls: to lay down our heads and hearts with love, and hear the one sound, my friend, and keep silent.
"Silence is sacred, just as music is. Silence is at once nothing and everything. It encapsulates the possibilities of the infinite," says Kornél Fekete-Kovács. "If you play just a single note, it breaks the silence, and deprives everyone else of their own inner music. If you play just a single note, it must have weight, and you must sound it with the utmost gratitude, respect, and responsibility." On this CD, Different Aspects of Silence, six musicians seek these notes played with responsibility. Kornél Fekete-Kovács has long been planning to call together the Robert Balzar Trio (pianist Vít Křišťan, drummer Kamil Slezák, and bassist Robert Balzar) with two very different vocalists, who nevertheless easily found a common thread. The multifaceted singer Veronika Harcsa, with her supple mezzosoprano voice, is joined by tenor Dan Bárta, who started out as a rock singer. The project finally came about last year, and recordings were made in July 2021 in the studios of Budapest Music Center.
With two exceptions, the songs were written by Kornél Fekete-Kovács, who, prompted by the constant clamour and music surrounding modern life, set about ruminating on the nature of silence. "When we sit in a restaurant, pub, or taxi, there’s the sound of music everywhere, and even on the underground there is leakage from the earphones of fellow travellers. Of course these are wonderful technical achievements, but it’s also true that it is practically impossible to enjoy utter silence," says the bandleader, reminding us how different it was centuries ago, when people mostly heard music either in church or at celebrations, and those with the requisite skills would spend weeks or months fashioning an instrument for themselves. "Everyone had to make a sacrifice to listen to music. It was not enough to press a button or touch a screen."
In this age of streaming we have access to almost all the CDs and records in the world, material for which it is increasingly fashionable to use the word "content". Yet the philosophy of music has a tradition going back millennia.
In Rūmī’s thinking, music is not only a means of praising God; it is faith itself, a revelation which at once reflects the inner, holy mathematics of the world. Kornél Fekete-Kovács makes a similar declaration: "For me, music is a fifth element, alongside the elements of earth, water, air, and fire. The musician has a ‘mandate’ to interpret the sounds sent to them from the universe. These are accessible to all of us. We need do nothing but close our eyes and wait for them to find us." 
In order to discover through sounds as many aspects of silence as possible, the musicians call to their aid two modern-era poets, William Blake and Sándor Weöres. Blake’s text The Night is not merely a poem in the style of the lake poets describing a landscape on an intimate, noiseless night, but a magic axis of the natural world and eternity. "Man's perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception; he percieves more than sense (tho’ ever so acute) can discover" he wrote prophetically. Weöres, who was drawn to silence partly through his affinity with oriental philosophy, wrote in a letter from 1947 of his experience with meditation: "I simply gaze, inwards, into myself; I gaze at that great emptiness of the beyond, which a couple of years ago was just a point of light at the end of a corridor, and is now as large as a house. A house made all of rays of light, and in it there lives nobody, nothing. (…) The only way to speak about this would be to write completely blank pages. I have thus progressed from one-word poems to no-word poems." His poem Dob és tánc (Drum and Dance) is works pure magic with words, and Kornél Fekete-Kovács’s arrangement assigns a particular pitch to each word, separating the brief lines of verse with a momentary pause. This interplay of silence and sound eventually sets the poem’s world in motion: "embroidery of light / weaving of foam / spinning of wind / runes of smoke / script of fire." Veronika Harcsa sings these dynamic lines, and to Weöres’s text is added nonsense sung in a trance.
The philosophy of silence does not mean a sterile life, free of all stimulation. In The Guest House, Rūmī uses the allegory of a guest room to describe the process by which an individual allows in pleasure, sadness, shame, and malice, for in their soul they might thus (albeit rarely), find moments of awareness: "…meet them at the door laughing, / and invite them in. / Be grateful for whoever comes, / because each has been sent / as a guide from beyond." An even more important element of Sufistic mysticism, and of Blakean spirituality, is that of ecstasy. In the case of Rūmī, for whom wine, love, and music were synonyms for God, ecstasy was certainly a means of gnosis. In the sixth composition on the CD, He is Here, the transformative spiritual experience is followed by free improvisational music, and here another Sufi word of counsel might come to mind: at the highest point of samā the musicians must cast aside the "scrolls" and and fill themselves with "wine, which lasts forever". According to Sufi teachers this is the state of wajd, which rather than ecstasy would be better understood as instasy, for the enlightened one is able to find their pleasure in observation of the inner Unity.
Thus it is no surprise that the last composition on Different Aspects of Silence is a music of joy, written to Rūmī's poem Community of the Spirit – joy in the noblest sense of the word. Here, in a paradoxical image so typical of mystics, the enlightened one can melt and find peace in the noise of the world, and with his (or her) inner vision can master her (or his) instincts and temptations. In its musical style this composition returns to where the western listener perhaps started from – to jazz spiced up with elements of rock. For silence does not just mean the silence of notes, but also the satisfaction of the senses, when the body does not demand, and of course the silence of secrets, when the mind resigns itself to how knowledge of the greatest things cannot be spoken. As the wise Sufi said: the order of the world cannot be known, it has to be experienced. So listen.

Máté Csabai
Translated by Richard Robinson

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