Péter Eötvös, UMZE Chamber Ensemble, Michael Svoboda, Klangforum Wien Péter Eötvös: Intervalles-Interieurs – Windsequenzen
The compositions Intervalles-Intérieurs (Interval interiors or Inside the intervals) and the Windsequenzen (The sequences of the wind) date from the “exploratory” period of the 70s, when my interest was centred on transferring the laws of nature into sound.
Michael Svoboda - trombone
Conducted by Péter Eötvös
Original pre-recorded tape made by Péter Eötvös and Mesias Maiguashca (1972-74)
Eva Furrer - flute, piccolo,alto flute
Markus Deuter - oboe, English horn, windimitation
Donna Wagner Molinari - clarinet
Bernhard Zachhuber - clarinet
Ernesto Molinari - bass clarinet
Gérard Buquet - tuba
Uli Fussenegger - double bass
Krassimir Sterev - accordion
Lukas Schiske - percussion
Conducted by Péter Eötvös
About the album
Music publisher: Edition Salabert Paris (1), Editio Musica Budapest (2-9)
Recorded at Tom-Tom Studio, Budapest on 24/10/2002 (1) and at Wiener Konzerthaus by Tom-Tom Studio on 14-15/04/2003 (2-9)
Recorded and mixed by Péter Dorozsmai
Recording assistant: Károly Paczári (2-9)
Cover art and design by Meral Yasar based on the photo “Chinese landscape” by Gábor Bachman
Portrait photo: István Huszti
Produced by László Gőz
The recording was sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the National Cultural Fund of Hungary
Richard Whitehouse - Gramophone (en)
Calum MacDonald - International Record Review (en)
Grant Chu Covell - La Folia (en)
Laurent Bergnach - Anaclase.com (fr)
Dirk Wieschollek - Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (de)
Max Nyffeler - Neue Zürcher Zeitung (de)
Michał Mendyk - Nowa Muzyka (pl)
Pablo Batallán - Diverdi (es)
Molnár Szabolcs - Gramofon ***** (hu)
Kiss Eszter Veronika - Magyar Nemzet (hu)
Lehotka Ildikó - Papirusz portál (hu)
Péter Eötvös: Windsequenzen
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The sound of nature and the nature of sound
The compositions Intervalles-Intérieurs (Interval interiors or Inside the intervals) and the Windsequenzen (The sequences of the wind) date from the “exploratory” period of the 70s, when my interest was centred on transferring the laws of nature into sound. I developed the electronic base material for Intervalles-Intérieurs between 1972 and 1974 (the piece Electrochronicle is a diary-like summary of this work), but I added three versions of the instrumental part between 1975 and 1981. I started to work on The sequences of the wind in 1975, and was working on it continuously until 2002. I consider the present form of both pieces “final”.
Even in ancient times people could hear and feel the different levels of tension between different intervals. For this reason they considered some intervals permitted, and others dangerous, or even forbidden. (This way of thinking lies so close to me that I feel the best way to illustrate the tensions between the characters in my operas is by the use of intervals.)
Intervalles-Intérieurs focuses on the processes taking place inside the intervals. The basic concept is in the electronic material. My aim was to construct an electronic switch which, with the help of audio modulators (a voltage control filter, or VCF, an amplitude modulator, and a ring modulator), amplifies the voltage curve between the two notes (the inner movement of the complex forms arising from the sinus or triangle/square waveforms familiar from the oscilloscope), and thus makes it audible, in the form of melody and rhythm. In a figurative sense, this is an acoustic microscope: things we cannot hear with the naked ear become audible. Much more importantly, however, every audible element of the system is automatically generated by one single unit. The parameters are identical to one another: the “melody” has the same form of movement as the “rhythm”. This principle has something in common with the techniques of serial music, but the resulting sound led down a completely different path, to a kind of profuse organic germination.
The most important act in the creation of the composition was, then, setting up, “inventing” the “interval microscope”. A sound generated by a filter produces melodies that correspond to the interval curve. The filter sweeps between the two notes of the interval (from which it was formed): in other words it shows itself in another form. The waves of two notes are summed, resulting in a third curve, and this curve is the melody: the crests are the high notes, the troughs are the low ones, etc. The technique is similar as regards rhythm: the crests are loud, the troughs soft. When the wave (the curve) repeats itself periodically, we get a smooth, recognisable rhythmic motif.
The melody and the rhythm run in parallel, because the guiding wave is the same, although the polarity of the modulators can be switched, which leads to the melody and rhythm being in opposition to one another. All this is just a simplified description of the procedure. The switching – which in this piece is raised to the level of creativity – is far more complex than this, since it also affects the positioning of the notes in space, for example.
In two years I managed to perfect the switching so that nothing needed to be reset, and the electronic organist, the Observer, only needed to concentrate on recognising the nature of the intervals: to keep the key depressed, to listen, until he “understood”. This is the basis of the electronic layer. This music is not “played” or “performed”; it is “listened to” and “monitored”.
The electronic material of Intervalles-Intérieurs on this CD is of course a recording of an instance of it being played, which is something of a paradox. It resembles a photograph of a cell in the process of division, a static depiction of one single moment, which goes against the essence of the work. But this, after all, is a CD, and not a studio, a laboratory, or a concert.
A special feature of the instrumental part, which complements the electronic layer, is what is known as the “golden section interval” (the fundamental and the note lying at the golden section of the octave), which is somewhere between a minor and major sixth – a kind of neutral sixth.
There are many fifths in the electronic layer, because the impure fifths of the electronic organ caused slow beats, the melodies and rhythms of which were clearly audible. The closer together two sound waves are, the smaller the interval; the higher the frequency band in which they move, the faster they beat. The preponderance of fifths and periodic rhythms leads to the composition often being reminiscent of instrumental folk music: it is as if a kaval (a long folk flute) were being gently shaken to produce vibrato, or if we could hear the rhythmic humming and buzzing of a hurdy-gurdy. The work then, is nothing other than an audience with the secrets of nature, and at certain moments it links up with the “sound of nature”, or more precisely, it reveals its natural roots.
The sequences of the wind – just like Intervalles-Intérieurs – is based on a natural law, and so this too is “nature itself”, and not merely an illustration of nature. Although the whole composition and the picturesque titles of certain movements suggest some kind of programme, these are later additions, and played no role in the gestation of the piece. If, however, we are to seek the inspiration for this poetic work in the external world, we have to refer to the composer’s time spent in Japan. Péter Eötvös spent six months in Japan in 1970, at the Osaka World Expo, as a member of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s ensemble. The sequences of the wind was composed partly on the inspiration of the Japanese natural world (the rain, wind, bamboo reeds, and stones), but, according to the composer, far more important is the influence of Zen Buddhism. The basic idea and philosophical background of the work is none other than one of the opposite pairs of Zen: calm in motion, motion in calm.
To form the Zen paradox into a composition Péter Eötvös made use of the most basic acoustical phenomena: the harmonic series and what is known as the phenomenon of “difference tones”. This piece too, then, is based on intervals, but this time on the relationship between the most natural intervals, the harmonics. As we know, the harmonics are formed by the integer multiples of the frequency of the fundamental. If two notes of a different frequency sound together, the sum and difference tone can also be heard (that is, the frequencies are added and subtracted, and the two resulting frequencies are heard together with the two original pitches).
Péter Eötvös has chosen two fundamentals for each movement of the composition, and has ascribed 3 harmonic series to them in such a way that the distance between the harmonics (the difference tone) should remain constant, and always result in the fundamental itself.
For example, if the composer links the 5+4 difference model to the fundamental, he works with the 1st, 6th and 10th harmonics, then the 2nd, 7th and 11th harmonics, the 3rd, 8th and 12th harmonics, and so on. The resulting sound is apparent motion, since the scale used in the movement runs on the harmonic series, but the difference is constant, so the system itself is unmoving, stationary. The vertical difference between the two harmonics always expresses the fundamental.
The rhythm and metre are controlled by two opposing forces: one produces gradual change (like the “triangle” waveform familiar from electroacoustics), and the other sudden changes (like the electro-acoustic “square wave” sound).
This introduction merely illustrates how consistent is the composition The sequences of the wind, and is a detailed description of the starting point for the composer. But what remains a mystery – for it almost certainly depends on the individual’s capability – is how this rigorous intellectual construction acquires poetic content, and becomes a music which is at times meditative, and at other times of sensual beauty. In the “cast” of the work the series of chords formed from harmonics is played mostly by the flute/alto flute, English horn doubling oboe, and the clarinet; in the final movement the accordion takes on this role. The fundamentals – that is, the difference tones born of the harmonics – are played by the tuba, the double bass or the bass clarinet. The bass drum and the “wind” parts (oral imitation of the whistling of the wind) articulate the temporal flow of certain movements.
The motion – superficially – is continuous; the system, however, remains constant, unchanged. The crystallisation of the paradox into music is perfect. The sequences of the wind is nothing less than Zen become music.
translated by Richard Robinson
Péter Eötvös was born in Székelyudvarhely in 1944.
1958 Admitted to the Academy of Music in Budapest on the recommendation of Zoltán Kodály, to major in composition.
1966-68 Studied conducting at the Music College of Cologne on a DAAD scholarship.
1968-76 Member of the Stockhausen Ensemble.
1971-78 Member of the WDR Electronic Studio.
1979-91 Music director of the Parisian Ensemble InterContemporain.
1985-88 First guest conductor of the BBC Symphonic Orchestra in London.
1991 Founded the International Eötvös Institute for young conductors and composers.
Since 1994 he has been the leading conductor of the Dutch Radio Chamber Orchestra.
He has received several international and Hungarian prizes and awards (among others: Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Bartók-Pásztory Prize, Kossuth Prize). All his compositions have been released on CD by BMC, DGG, Bis, Kairos, ECM and col legno.
UMZE Chamber Ensemble
The ensemble was formed in 1997, and made its debut at the Budapest Autumn Festival. The name is the abbreviation of the Hungarian for New Hungarian Music Association. This association was originally formed by Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály in 1911, with the aim of promoting contemporary music. UMZE is proud to continue this progressive initiative.
Their aim is to present the masterpieces of the 20th and 21st centuries, and to inspire composers in Hungary and abroad to create new works. The theoretical background and the initiative are the work of the percussionist Zoltán Rácz and the musicologist András Wilheim. Since 1999 Péter Eötvös has been the honorary chief conductor of the ensemble.
In addition to their significant contribution to the Budapest Spring Festival, the Budapest Autumn Festival and the Szombathely Bartók Festival, the ensemble has started to work outside Hungary; they have given successful concerts in the Berlin Akademie der Künste, in the Karlsruhe ZDK, and the course at the Centre Acanthes in Avignon. UMZE took part in the performance of Péter Eötvös' opera Three Sisters in Budapest and Zagreb. In May 2002 they performed in the Vienna Festival Weeks, and in November 2003 in the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
UMZE’s CDs are released by BMC and BIS.
Klangforum Wien was founded in 1985 by Beat Furrer as an ensemble of soloists for contemporary music. The twenty-four-member ensemble was founded around a central philosophy of democracy, where co-operation between performers, conductors and composers is both encouraged and nurtured and replaces the more traditional, hierarchical structure found in everyday musical practice.
This approach to music, combined with an understanding of the varying aesthetical facets of contemporary works, allows the Klangforum to produce authentic performances of contemporary compositions.
Performances by the Klangforum Wien offer great stylistic variety, from the important works of the classical modern, especially of the Second Vienna School, to the works of up-and-coming young composers, experimental jazz and free improvisation. Further variety is provided by a number of regular composers’ workshops.
Concerts are held worldwide with more than eighty performances each season. Venues range from all over Europe, to the USA and Japan and include a series of concerts with ambitious programmes held at the Wiener Konzerthaus. In addition, Klangforum Wien participates in numerous music theatre, film and TV productions. CDs have also been released on labels such as accord, cpo, durian, Grammont, Musikszene Schweiz, pan classics, Wergo and Kairos.
Sylvain Cambreling has held the position of First Guest Conductor of Klangforum Wien since 1997.
Klangforum Wien is supported by Julius Bär