Bridging the Borders–Two Lithuanians

Rytis Mažulis and Jurgis Mačiūnas at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

photo: Dmitry Matveyev

The author of microtonal canons and the most radical Lithuanian minimalist Rytis Mažulis is featured at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK) for a second year in a row. This time, in the concert by Apartment House, the British experimental music ensemble, titled Bridging the Borders–Two Lithuanians, the composer’s instrumental works will be performed along with the works by George Mačiūnas, the ideologist of Fluxus. The ensemble’s founder and director, cellist Anton Lukoszevieze, reveals his motives for juxtaposing the two Lithuanian artists on one scene in the festival’s catalogue:

Destroyed instruments, anti-film, chaotic pianos, Fluxus and anarchic canons. Apartment House present two radical Lithuanian composers/artists Rytis Mažulis and George Mačiūnas. Mačiūnas, the high priest of 60’s art revolution Fluxus, and Mažulis, a highly distinctive superminimalist composer, obsessed with canonic forms, taken to supreme limits verging on rock music. George Mačiūnas was, amongst many things, a great maker of diagrams mapping and charting the intricate nature of 20th century avantgarde art. This brings me to think of the French writer Raymond Roussel, who had the idea of using phonetic sameness, but multiple meaning, in order to change the narrative course of his books. I think also of George Perec’s encyclopedic tracts, a whole house of labyrinthine life. Lastly, I think of my own family’s Lithuanian genealogical chart, a vast sprawl spanning the globe back to 1840. The vast inter-connected, correlative nature and, indeed, absurdness of contemporary life is also a programmer’s dream. Take 2 Lithuanian artists, Mažulis and Mačiūnas, a generation apart, unrelated apart from country of birth and similarity of surname. We discover a vast network of connections between their work. Musical instruments threatened, destroyed even, in states of sonic decay and tragic destruction. Musicians reduced to an almost mechanical state and negated of conventional musical roles. Film and music reduced to numbers, fragments, basics and banality. Systems of uniformity and functional blandness, enriched through repetition ad absurdam. Musical canons driven insanely or with a limpid subtle beauty. […]

The concert will feature Rytis Mažulis’ Sans pause (2001) for string quartet, Canon mensurabilis (2000) for sextet and Musica falsa (2006) for cello and tape, as well as several pieces for computer-controlled piano. All of these works, with the exception of the most recent one, Musica falsa, have been released by the Belgian contemporary music label Megadisc Classics as part of a CD trilogy containing virtually all of Mažulis’ music.

Meanwhile, on November 24 Liege’s Images Sonores festival will see Arne Deforce perform the new microtonal/microrhythmical composition Schisma for cello and electronics, realized by Rytis Mažulis at Liege’s Musical Research Centre (CRFMW) in collaboration with the sound designer Jean-Marc Sullon. Here the composer further develops his practice of dividing the halftone into microtones (schisma stands for division in Greek), this time dividing the partition unit so familiar to the European ear into 24-49 equal parts and applying a similar procedure to the time values. The live cello part is multiplied by extracting fourteen virtual copies of it, to each one of which a different halftone and minute partition is applied, like microscope filters of varying sensitivity. The reflections of the cello line, sounding in parallel but differing in subtle nuances of intonation and rhythm, migrate across the space and immerse the listener into the slowly changing, almost half-hour long contemplation that comes close to the ‘standards’ set by Mažulis’ most radical score so far–ajapajapam (2002) for 12 voices, string quartet and tape.

A composition for organ, written during another residency–at the Visby International Centre for Composers in 2006–will be performed by Dainius Sverdiolas in Visby. The meditative piece is composed in the form of mirror canon, based on the opposition of two shortening 10-second clusters: the first cluster grows shorter from the beginning, while the second one grows shorter from the end, thus transforming the sole parameter of duration during the course of the composition. Commonly associated with dense textures and ceaseless motion, in this work Mažulis inserts considerable amounts of silence between the fading chords, contrasting it to sound. “Sound–silence. Presence–absence,”–explains the composer. After the composition was already finished, it acquired a title of Biblical origin, Canon sumus, which lends a sacred tone to the work of lucid structure: “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8).

© Justė Janulytė

Final Chapter of Rytis Mažulis at the Megadisc Classics Catalogues

“Mažulis is a composer whose music I really want to bring into focus; his music should definitely be better known in the world,” claims Patric de Clerck, a Flemish composer, concert producer and executive of the record company Megadisc Classics. A concrete plan has been already implemented: his record company released three CDs of Mažulis’ music. First release, Cum essem parvulus comprises four of his vocal compositions, the second, Twittering Machine is a further quartet of his pieces, this time for computer-controlled grand piano. This summer Megadisc Classics has released the third album Form Is Emptiness as a final chapter of Mažulis’ Trilogy. “As usual the final chapter shows who is Master and who is not. This one is... Master Mažulis!”, - says the publisher about the new release.

Joshua Meggitt from the experimental electronic music magazine Grooves writes about the release Twittering Machine: “the Lithuanian composer uses repetition in a manner not dissimilar to pioneers like Glass and Reich, but doesn’t share their interest in melodic simplicity or phasing. Rather, Mažulis constructs wildly chaotic cells that only become more complex with each passing cycle. There is a symmetry to these revolutions, but it’s fractured, with intervals broken into irrational micro-durations, making sense in the way chaos theory does. [...] The most obvious reference is Conlon Nancarrow and his player-piano studies, only Mažulis’ work is much more visceral and jagged and, being played on a modern disklavier piano, offers a richer, more resonant sound. The opening movement of the two-part title track contains the disc’s most gripping riff, an almost hummable tune of dissonant zig-zagging notes that, after numerous cycles, sticks in the brain like a fishhook. “Part II” splits a Nancarrow saloon rag into multiple conflicting streams, a clumsy bass line thumped out with fists contrasting with families of fireflies dancing on the high notes. [...] Twittering Machine is what being clubbed to death by 88 small, padded hammers must feel like—some of the most powerful music I’ve heard in years.”

Lithuanian Music Link No. 15