Csapó, Szeverényi, Vékony, Csalog, Thompson, Jørgensen, Klenyán, Rozmán, Rönkös + Gyula Csapó: Handshake after shot

BMCCD013 1999

℗ 1999 & 2002

His music answers the most timely questions with works of exceptional quality. His musical language is highly original and strikingly powerful. His integrity and creative imagination, far beyond the merely fashionable and the trendy, represents, in my view, one of the most important contributions to the field today.

György Kurtág


1. Handshake after shot
László Préda, Gábor Szigeti - muted trumpets
Mária Barnás - oboe
Éva Bótai - electric organ
Zsolt Serei - cardboard box
Gyula Csapó - conductor, piano, noise, electronics

2. Hark, Edward...
Ilona Szeverényi, Ildikó Vékony - dulcimers
Gábor Csalog - piano
István Lukácsházi - double bass

3. Sutræcitations
Alastair Thompson - tenor, tuned glasses
Csaba Klenyán, András Horn, Lajos Rozmán - clarinet
Gyula Csapó - piano, noise, electronics

4. Krapp's Last Tape
Kjell Arne Jørgensen - violinist-actor, pre-recorded tape

5. BirdDayCage
Veronika Rönkös - violoncello
Gyula Csapó - piano

About the album

1. Handshake after shot
Recorded at the 6th Studio of the Hungarian Radio
Musical director: László Matz
Sound engineer: Mária Geszti
Sound engineer: István Horváth

2. Hark, Edward...
Recorded at the Szent István Music School, Budapest
Musical director: Andrea Szigetvári, Tibor Alpár
Sound engineer: Zoltán László, László Sütő

3. Sutræcitations
Recorded at the Szent István Music School, Budapest
Musical director: Andrea Szigetvári, Tibor Alpár
Sound engineer: Zoltán László, László Sütő

4. Krapp's Last Tape
Recorded at the 6th Studio of the Hungarian Radio
Sound engineer: István Horváth

5. BirdDayCage
Recorded at the Szent István Music School, Budapest
Musical director: Andrea Szigetvári, Tibor Alpár
Sound engineer: Zoltán László, László Sütő

Music published by Editio Musica Budapest
Mastered by Péter Erdélyi

Cover art and design by Meral Yasar based on photo by István Huszti
Portrait photo: István Huszti
Architect: Bachman

Produced by László Gőz


Stephen Eddins - All Music Guide ****1/2 (en)

Grant Chu Covell - La Folia (en)

Raymond Tuttle - ClassicalNet (en)

Frigyesi Judit - Perspectives of New Music (en)

Porrectus - Muzsika (hu)

Szvoren Edina - Gramofon ***** (hu)

3500 HUF 11 EUR

Gyula Csapó:

01 Handshake after shot (dedicated to János Pilinszky) 3:13
02 Hark, Edward... - hommage to E. Grieg 19:36
03 Sutræcitations 22:22
04 Krapp's Last Tape - after Samuel Beckett 26:07
05 BirdDayCage (for John Cage's 76th birthday) 1:08
Total time 72:26

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

Most contemporary music fails to make it out of the composition seminar and the expert's world. But the unquestioned interest of the different compositional techniques, in all their subtleties and cleverness, are not sufficient to fulfil in the listener a much more basic need than that offered in the classroom, and, sometime unfortunately, in the halls of contemporary music festivals.

A particular use of intelligence has become the purpose of music instead of it being the vehicle for a profound vital experience where intelligence is balanced with the rest of the bodily functions. The brain is only the body's Foreign Secretary, as Schopenhauer reminded us, while music has to speak for the whole Republic. Csapó's music is like that: it appeals to the whole being of the listener. A piece like Handshake After Shot adopts a course that runs counter to the usual path of most contemporary musical pieces: while it may be of special interest to classroom analysis yet it is possessed of invaluable experience helping to grasp the depth of human nostalgia. What is perhaps of the greatest value in Csapó's music is the extent of intimacy created by the immediacy of musical sound, enabling music to return to the sphere of the sacred, to the sphere of awe in front of existence. Sutracitations in this sense offers the experience of an intimate union with the human voice, proposes a dissociation from all that is superficial in music and serves as a journey into its innermost recesses.

Csapó is a composer who opens a window to eternity with each sound he writes. Through his discovery of the most refined and original drone technique I know of, this music transcends the limitations of most contemporary musical styles. It opens up a global musical and temporal dimension which will never cease to delight and liberate listeners of no matter what culture while enveloping all of us in a genuine aura of intimacy.

Dr. Oscar E. Munoz

Csapó's reflections on his pieces
Handshake After Shot

Handshake After Shot was composed in Budapest, November-December 1977, for two muted trumpets (sounded on both sides of the stage), an oboe (in the centre), an electric organ (background, centre) and a cardboard box (foreground, centre). The piece has been dedicated to the late Hungarian poet, János Pilinszky.

The composition is one undisturbed time-continuum and, as such, it is capable of producing a delusion of our sense of time. Its continuity unfolds by 12 notes of a C ionian scale and their spatial dispersal, resulting in an antifanfare of sorts.

The C-G “humming” acts as a gravitational field, which slightly alters any sonic “object” coming in contact with it: all sounds emerge from and vanish into it. It is a black hole, in the process of absorbing all. An antifanfare, removing all gestural, convulsive, articulative remnants of history, retroactively validating silence as “sacred space”. Here it is this music from an alien world that proves real, and a previously broken relationship might be put right by it.

As I was finalizing the score for publication by Editio Musica Budapest, I got a nice surprise in connection with the composition: I was previously unaware of the fact that the two rests prior to and following the brief entry of the oboe are equally 99 beats each.

Here come three memories to conclude this description. One is that of the day I composed the piece at one sitting (only to further adjust details of timing for another two months). Getting home very early in the afternoon after the trials and tribulations of a tumultuous day in the city, I retreated to my room - for all I wanted was silence. This strong desire itself directly led to writing the piece. Having been sketched, all it was in need of was a title. On ruminating briefly, I wrote the present title on the score. I was convinced that the words of the title came from a poem of Pilinszky's. With a desire in mind to re-read it all, I hunted up his anthology. Ever since I have been searching for the line in vain . . .

The next memory I have is seeing in 1974 Fellini's Clowns - Requiem for a Circus four times in succession. There are allusions to the last scene of the film (where clowns are sending messages to each other by means of trumpets across an empty circus-ring, while the lights go out one by one) in both Handshake After Shot and in Krapp's Last Tape - After Samuel Beckett (1974-75), at the end, where the four lights go out.

My last memory is a phone-call I received from John Cage following the New York premiere of Handshake... (Lincoln Center, 10 February 1990, Continuum Ensemble, under Jo'l Sachs as conductor). Cage told me that this piece appealed to him most in the entire programme. Delighted and embarrassed, I asked him to tell me what he liked about it, whereupon he said: “the way it sounded”.

Hark, Edvard . . . - hommage a Grieg

John Cage once said that his first understanding of the nature of the chord D-major came from Edvard Grieg's works. By this, Cage meant the independence of this phenomenon (Ding an Sich): notably, instead of being a representative of harmony" in Grieg's music, a D-major is asserted as a sonority completely inseparable from its position and timbre.

The first version of Hark, Edvard... - hommage á Grieg was written in 1979 in Budapest at the request of Ilona Szeverényi. I significantly revised the musical score in May 1997 for the purpose of this recording. The composition, which has two more versions, has been dedicated to György Kurtág.

The raw material of 66 chords has been taken from Grieg's Lyric Pieces. The part of the double bass is derived from the bass line of Grieg's last piece entitled Efterklang - which comprises 12 notes. The timbre is of utmost importance: partly in regard to the arrangement and position of the chords, and partly due to the “timbral chiaroscuro” between the dulcimers and the piano. The double bass acts as a “ring-modulator”: its positions in the harmony greatly influence the history of every single passing chord. For instance, when the bass serves as a true base for the chord sounding above, the chord will be acoustically amplified. Elsewhere the double bass will be heard playing “false” bass notes, which are capable of fading and dimming the chord sounding together with them. A subtly “contrapuntal” aspect of the piece emerges with the gradual disappearance of the double-bass: towards the end of the work, its high-pitched overtones stealthily faint away into the chords of the dulcimers and piano. The composition is no less concerned with the transformation and gradual dissolution of the sounds of the double-bass than with an irreversible submersion in a swirl of tide.

At first the chords are randomised. A distinguished D-major (the last component of the closing chord of Grieg's For dine Födder) recurs with an average statistical frequency. It is solely itself that each chord embodies, appearing as a “phenomenon”: thus their positions do not shift upon repetition. When each chord included has sounded, their partial repetition ensues (in random order) with a gradual “loss” in number, until eventually two remain for the endgame: one comes from Grieg's Kanon, the other is the D-major mentioned before. The last chord to remain is the one borrowed from Kanon. It should be noted that in Grieg's For dine Födder there is a low-keyed and altered subdominant-minor before a high-keyed cadence in D-major. In Hark, Edvard ... this subdominant-minor chord is already dropped one step sooner, but is replaced by a similarly low-keyed chord (bearing a like tonality) from Kanon. This is as much suggestive of the original context of the chords as it is an homage to Grieg's brilliant application of various ranges of pitch. I have applied the principles of statistical tonality in order to ensure the balanced rotation of a variety of chords. My own brand of this method was inspired by our conversations with Clarence Barlow in Darmstadt.

The process detailed above also includes a couple of Grieg-quotations whose function is to enhance the uniqueness of each moment. Therefore, they occur once as a rule.

While the musical process is irreversible, each musical element becomes unpredictable with 'factors of uncertainty' which are intentionally introduced. For instance, the length of most chords approximate the length of a 6/8 bar but fluctuate around this value in characteristic successions of random numbers like this: 5-6-5-7-5-7-5-4-5-6-5-6-3-6-9-7-6. Although there are chords and quotations that last even longer (even 13/8), these occur statistically rarely. The same being the case with shorter values, durations of average length - rather than those of extreme length - dominate.


Sutræcitations is vocal music composed for tenor (soprano) or bariton (mezzo-soprano) voice, three clarinets, the amplified sounds of a piano, an amplifier, loudspeakers, two tuned glasses, and unidentified sources of noise (Montreal, 1991 - Saskatoon, 1995). The piano primarily acts as a resonator: The vocal sounds at times - via a microphone and an amplifier - reach a loudspeaker which is placed in close proximity to the strings of the piano. The strings are thus vibrated, while the right-foot pedal is depressed. The lyrics are sentences taken from the English version of the mahayana buddhist Avatamsaka Sutra (translated as The Flower Ornament Scripture by Thomas Cleary).

The form of the composition represents a gradual process of fragmentation which can also be traced in the delivery of the lyrics. The lyrics start with seven brief statements followed by the first statement again. Next follows a multiple re-applying of previous fragments of the text in the form of constantly shortening loops.

I. Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was in the land of Magatha, in a state of purity, at the site of enlightenment, having just realised true awareness.
II. The ground was solid and firm, made of diamond, adorned with [. . . ] pure crystals.
III. The ocean of characteristics of the various colours appeared over an infinite extent.
IV. There were banners of precious stones constantly emitting shining light, and producing beautiful sounds!
V. Nets of myriad gems and garlands of exquisitely scented flowers hung all around.
VI. The finest jewels appeared spontaneously.
VII. There were rows of jewel trees, their branches and foliage lustrous and luxuriant.
I(2) (Part I. recurs), II(2), III(2), I(3), I(4) interrupted: silence is substituted for “true awareness”, I(5) reduced:“at the site”, II(3) fragment: “The ground was solid and firm” passes into the fully instrumental movement entitled OSCILLATIONS ON FIRM GROUND, III(3), I(6) (cut short at the word “enlightenment”);
IV(2): the word “shining” is repeated, and “and producing beautiful sounds” is omitted, as if predicting an impending sheer silence - the end of the piece, CHORALE (the three clarinets, only), SILENCE, FLOWERING OBSTRUCTIONS (also an all instrumental movement, written for three clarinets)
VIII. (last, fragmented text, vocalist only): The tree of enlightenment was tall and outstanding. Its trunk was diamond, its main boughs were lapis lazuli, its branches [...] within the light [...] within each gem [...] simultaneously [...] perceived the Buddha without obstruction.

The ending is therefore purely vocal, thus enhancing the meaning of the words “without obstruction”; this is precisely what the title FLOWERING OBSTRUCTIONS also refers to.

The encounter of the principles of cyclicity and fragmentation demanded the creation of a composition technique designed specifically for this piece. This technique ensures that the idea of simultaneous multiplicity be manifest within the vocal line in form of abrupt and imperceptible cuts. The technique may be illustrated, for instance, by a comparison between the two occurrences of the fragment thus have I heard. “At one time the Buddha . . .” {I(1), I(2)}. The humming of the glass is sounded on the note a1 at the end of I(1), while in I(2) the reference note g1 is enhanced by the clarinets. This would all suggest the transposition of the whole musical part a major second lower. But the transposition is not executed with regard to the complete section; each fragment is scattered about various planes of pitch. “Thus I have heard” appears as being based on the reference note f1, whereas “At one time the Buddha” shares an equal plane with the reference sound g1. I employ this multiple-plane transposition technique in elaborate ways throughout the composition.

The miniature entitled OSCILLATIONS ON FIRM GROUND is the first all-instrumental piece, CHORALE is the second such section, which is immediately followed by the third: FLOWERING OBSTRUCTIONS. The melodic line of the word simultaneously" refers back to that of “lustrous and luxuriant” (VII).

I regarded the creation of equilibrium between the spiritual-meditative and sensory spheres as fundamental in composing the piece. I intended to create a piece whose sensory element, in full splendour though it shines, does not dominate but is radiant in a state of equilibrium.

The text of Sutræcitations is in the English version by Thomas Cleary, published in Flower Ornament Scripture (Avatamska Sutra) by Shambhala Publications, Inc. By kind permission.

Krapp's Last Tape - after Samuel Beckett
(Scored for a violinist-actor, a tape-recorder, and three assistants regulating a sine-wave generator, four spotlights and a curtain in front of the stage)

The piece, composed in Pápa and Budapest between 31 December 1974 and 8 May 1975, has been dedicated to Margit Magyar. Its title (recalling Samuel Beckett's one-act play, Krapp's Last Tape) is a point of reference which indicates the borrowing of a Beckettian scene (including an actor and a tape recorder used to replay/record the voice of his former/present self). Since the composition sought to explore the Beckettian situation in purely musical terms, neither Beckett's scenario nor his text served as its blueprint.

Employing a violinist-actor to perform on stage results from my perception of the concert music scene as dully theatrical. It is not uncommon for a recital to pursue the dim remnants, agonizing in the minds of the musicians, of a well-known piece, while the piece itself does not come alive. The storm of applause is hollow feedback. So is the tape recorder, but ruthlessly accurate at least.

My violinist-actor is the paralysed concert violinist par excellence: s/he has nothing to do with acting, apart from performing his part slavishly and his precise use of the tape recorder placed before him; each of his moves is controlled by the tape recorder and a stop-watch. He has pre-recorded materials on the tape (this needs to be prepared in advance by each violinist intending to perform the work)

In the composition there are three different planes of timbre conveying a three-fold perception of time:

1. the sine-tone (F sharp'''): perfect continuity, objectivity of presence, uniformity of location;
2. the distorted, amplified sound of the violin, recorded with a contact microphone: time - stored after being raped and removed from its original position - ends up in being involuntarily repeatable (inanimate, that is);
3. the live sound of the violin, always muted (except in “Krapp's last walz” - 23'30"-24'): the sound is incapable of competing in loudness with that of the machine or with the fact that the tape recorder can produce montage of time of any density.

This is all about simulacrum, and about experiencing reality by piercing the balloon of simulacrum, thus breaking loose from the imprisoning magic spell of “representation”.

Sound recording is not a recent invention. Its implications, however, have seldom been fully grasped. For the first time in human history, exact repetition of the total sonorous material of any given segment of time became possible (to reasonably appreciate this, one only needs to consider Erik Satie's Vexations).

Due to the mechanical reiteration, which requires no human participation, perceived time itself dissolves, the informative content of integral time mingles, until finally the “experienced” and mechanical times become archenemies. Memory is replaced by the “recording”.
Repeating something mechanically translates into stolen time. Time is used by people to be portioned out, fragmented and clipped out: they never let it pass on. People subject their inner, suppressed, stifled perception of time to extrinsic structures.

Instead of allowing our activities to denote their own length of time (as space is affected by gravity in Einstein's physics), we force them into frames they have nothing to do with. I believe that my composition at last enables Krapp to possess sufficient time. The act of recording abruptly assumes a positive aspect here by extending the frames of Krapp's worm-like existence. This aspect appears more and more significant to me ...as time passes.

The succession of scenes and visual events in Krapp's Last Tape - after Samuel Beckett

0' 00" Theatre gong (visible before curtain in twilight) signals start. Aural approach towards stage begins with crescent sine F sharp '''.
52" As sine F sharp ''' arrives at its full, curtain rises in continuation taking 8 seconds.
1" Violinist-actor (Krapp) visible, (with his tape recorder and microphone on a small
table before him). Dim table light for his score.
1' 36.5" Krapp starts tape recorder.
2' 5" He stops it. Just as the loud, distorted sound ceases, four strong limelights focus on Krapp frozen in action.
2' 11" All lights out - Krapp is too late: by the time he starts playing, all has gone dark.
4' Krapp starts the tape, which spins in silence. Krapp plays the violin until he is interrupted by the recording at 4' 41".
4' 51" Tape stopped.
5' 37.5" Recording started.
5' 45" Krapp takes note of the digits on the counter, as he starts playing.
6' 35.3" Tape stopped and rewound. After stopping fast-rewind, he adjusts the reel by hand to the start of the recording, keeping an eye on the counter.
7' He replays his recording (from 5' 45").
7' 30" Split time (the mock simultaneity of the present and past): Krapp plays a round" with his own recording (from here on, the tape keeps running till the end of
the play).
24' The four limelights simultaneously illuminate Krapp, who is struck numb, and who has “gambled away” his waltz - he is not interesting to watch any more (he has again acted out of the limelight).
24' 15", 24' 30", 24' 45", 25'
Each beam goes out at regular intervals. Twilight.
25' With the last spotlight, the curtain starts to fall to close in eight seconds.
25' 08" - 26' Departure from the sounds - a waining sine F sharp'''; the empty reel spins on.
26' The tape recorder switched off behind a lowered curtain to end.


BirdDayCage was composed in New York on September 5th 1988, for the 76th birthday of John Cage. The cello and piano each speaks alone at first, defining their distinct musical qualities. The difference between them, however, turns out to be a unity - for it is merely a reflection of their true nature as instruments. The elements of the cello part are refracted into an enlarged space by that of the piano, as if by a prism. The third musical section is again carried by the cello; the piano lends a hand to help articulate its clause while still retaining its full independence. What follows is pure chamber music during which the piano functions as a mirror, continuer and initiator, while the cello proceeds along its own path to complete the piece. Often, prism-rounds occur - i.e. “imitations” acting as forms being produced by cracked mirrors, or as if some party tried their hands at playing a round in weightlessness on instruments floating overhead. The independent worlds of the two instruments co-exist in erotic freedom. I sense that the unfolding of this piece is fast and dense to the extreme. BirdDayCage, compared to Krapp's Last Tape, is representative of so different a musical space-time, that their comparison on a CD offered me a unique opportunity to reveal in more depth the true characters of each.

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