Is this music?
New music in our time comes in a large variety of styles and influences. Composers are constantly searching for new manners to express their ideas. On one side there is technology which is advancing fast, offering us all sorts of possibilities to create new dimensions of sounds. New programmes are invented, suitable for live performances and electronics manipulated in real time. On the other side there is an eager search for new instrumentation, permitting more combinations of sounds.
For many decades, composers such as John Cage (listen to ex. “Water Walk”) and Mauricio Kagel (“Dressur”) have turned to everyday objects for their collection of sounds. Objects like chairs, water boilers, bicycles, balloons become music instruments or musical objects. This method gave birth to theatrical music, which is the term I prefer to use instead of musical theatre. Cage, Kagel and their contemporaries bravely demonstrated a new process to make music, a new way of thinking which astonished the audience, performers and even composers. Today, after so many years of concerts, it is still not comfortable for the “average” audience to attend these theatrical music performances.
Most people would not be open to listening to a trio playing a piece for table, flute, and vacuum cleaner! A critical and “untrained” audience might ask “But is this music?”. A vague, but reasonable answer could be: “Yes, as long as it is about producing sounds and it is musical”.
It is regretful to say that there is one type/category of audience that merely copes with avant-garde music, every now and then, only because they are getting used to it. They tolerate it simply out of respect. However, getting used to something does not mean they enjoy or understand it. It only means they accept the fact that for certain artists it is essential to experiment beyond the usual and explore unknown territories.
These artists, like Columbus as a voyager, want to explore a new continent, a continent of sounds. They aim to accumulate an island full of instruments and sounds, the sea being the audience. Either the water stays calm, without any major reaction, or the waves would cover the land as destruction or protest. Maybe the tide pulls away, ignoring the land and all creations on it. This is what too many people have been doing, turning away from music unfamiliar to the ear, to the mind and the brain. Perhaps we ask too much of them and there is no one to blame. Or is there?!
If avant-garde music has too little audience, at least compared to many other genres like pop or rock, it could be because the audience is not “trained” to listen with patience, or to work hard in order to feel the magic those sounds may bring. In todayʼs society people have very little time to spare and they prefer music for relaxation, music that is easy to digest. They choose music just like they choose to consume fast food.
So, the question is: “How do we encourage more people to spend time with new music, and what ground can we prepare to help new listeners appreciate avant-garde music? Without a solid cultural education at early age it may be difficult to succeed at this task. This means we must start introducing classical music from all epochs, including avant- garde, already at the age of six. Why are there no systematic music classes where avant- garde music is played, listened to or discussed? Even classical music is threatened. It is taught at few schools, with few hours of poor standard. Perhaps if children heard new music and had more possibilities to play more instruments, we would have better understanding of music.
– LINKS to YOUTUBE:
1- violin concerto « Bright Blue Bird In A Grey Red Sky » (2014) inspired by the poems « Conference of the Birds » by Attar. The sounds from the orchestra imitate the journey of thousands of birds to find Simurgh, a giant, wise bird in Persian mythology. They seek enlightenment. Only thirty birds survive, but reaching their destination they only find a lake and see their own reflections in the water.
2- “I Am Not A Poet” (2012) for female voice, setar (persian instrument) and marimba, words are nonsense (they dont mean anything), by myself.
3- « Labyrinth Of Moods » (2011) for recorder, voice & percussion, inspired by Herman Hesse’s « Steppenwolf« https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSGSbwou5w4
4- « Rubaiyát » (2012) for piano and voice. A few poems from « Quatrains » by Omar Khayyam. He was poet, astronomer and mathematician »Rubaiyát » means « Quatrains »
“Letters To Lutosławski”
I remember you. I remember well how your voice gave me things to think about. When you played the strings or struck the keys, the room weighed heavily on the mind. And watching you softly scratch the paper with the pen meant there was something you wanted to share with others, something you had seen outside the window.
I was not your student, but you were my teacher. You taught many of us, even long after you had gone. We listened to your songs. Words that were memories from the war. I do not pretend to know how it felt when your papers were burnt to ashes, or buried in the ruins of your home. Did war make you braver? They say you escaped easily and walked back to Warsaw. Did you enjoy the long walk or was the smokey air burning your scars? Later you built your own army. An army of singers, strings and bows, confronting the crowd with sounds.
Now it is I who brings YOU music. There, it is swimming in the air, past the seven skies, to your new home. It will find you wherever you are.
You lived for music, did you not? Was time kind to you or did you leave too soon? Music is timeless, so you cannot complain!
We do not speak about you so often, but we remember you. It is a vague recall, but enough to tell this story. This story is not for you, but for me. I tell it to myself to remember you.
° “Letters To Lutosławski” is a monologue from a short film about the life of the Polish composer Witold Roman Lutosławski (1913 – 1994). In the film, a female voice over speaks to the image of a woman playing the violin and other metaphoric scenes, such as scores and objects falling into a water tank. The film, also called “Letters To Lutosławski”, and the monologue is an homage, from one composer to another.
While in India people find Indian music natural and exciting to listen to, since they are brought up with it, fewer people in Russia would, on the other hand, find Indian music exciting. This is of course not surprising due to cultural and educational reasons. In the same way we could bring up our young ones with more musical knowledge both at schools and at home.
Mansoor Hosseini, a Swedish avant-garde composer, studied composition at Music Conservatories in Paris, Brussels and Gothenburg. He also studied French and English at Gothenburg University, which inspired him to compose for singers and actors. Mansoor studied also film music at Gothenburg University and script writing at Gothenburg film University. Since then he composes for films and media, and has written several short scripts that have been produced and screened at festivals.
Mansoor’s creations love for literature, human voice, wether spoken or sung, encouraged him to look for his own way to express music. Words, combined with mouvement, in particular martial arts, contemporary dance and theater, became an important discovery for his compositions. He is fascinated by unconventional vocal sounds and used singingspeaking technics. He has worked with texts by Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Fjodor Dostojevski, Omar Khayyam, John Cage, Edgar Poe and more.
Mansoor applies various improvisation forms to some of his compositions, using different notations. He has given lectures about notations and composition, and also about the communication between musician and composer, musician and notation.
Mansoor was awarded several prizes; Swedish Art Council, the West Region Culture Prize, Swedish Arts Grants, Gothenburg City Culture prize, Composer’s Association and more. In 2007 he founded Themus Ensemble, for whom he composed several pieces, aiming to spread theatrical music concept.
By Mansoor Hosseini www.musicalmo.com
About Mansoor Hosseini: