Šarūnas Nakas in Tune with the Global Frequencies

Šarūnas Nakas, who began composing music, and formed the Vilnius New Music Ensemble twenty years ago, has the energy even today to 'enrage', 'charm' and surprise those around him. His startling electroacoustic Merz-machine (1985) continues its clanging to this day - with unbelievable success. The work appeared in 1997 on a CD entitled "Experimental Music", released by the Music Information and Publication Centre, and to the author's own surprise, was "grabbed up and broadcast over countless radio stations". A year later, at the suggestion of Ivan Bierhanzl, director of the Prague New Music Marathon, the composer created a version of the piece for an ensemble of six pianos. His futuristic construction was performed in this instrumental format in the Czech Republic, and later by the famous piano sextet, Piano Circus, at various festivals in Indonesia, Italy, Great Britain, and elsewhere. This year the British group recorded Nakas' unimpairable Merz-machine on a CD entitled "Transmission", together with works by Erkki-Sven Tüür and Conlon Nancarrow.

Punchy overlapping staccato chords and charging downward runs dominate Šarūnas Nakas's strident Merz-machine, which keeps going in spite of its apparently arrested momentum.

This piece is one of the few digitally recorded examples of the composer's music. In Lithuania one usually gets to hear his works live at contemporary music festivals. His interest in phenomena which were less accepted locally - Dadaism, Merz, electroacoustic, spectral music and new complexity - led Nakas to strive consistently to break out of the norms of traditional writing. His 'real sound' composition, At Heaven's Door, appeared out-of-the-way even at the 2000 Gaida Festival. Though akin to the concrete music trend, the work was received with an extraordinary level of public dissent. The composer formed its sonic presence out of radio noise and earliest examples of recorded music transformed into the sound of howling water, wind, and birds. Meanwhile - Nakas talks about the aspect of time, which has long been of interest to him: how does this phenomenon manifest in music, and how possible is it to alter the limits of its perception? Essentially, all of his works are divided into time frames which can be formulated in two ways: intensely active, as in the aforementioned Merz-machine, and suspended - lingering. The ambient At Heaven's Door belongs to this latter series of meditative compositions.

Lately Nakas has not been averse to such creative forms; he has composed a multi-layered piece no more moderate than the last - Aporia - for the 2002 Gaida Festival. Thirteen performers, divided into three groups, will simultaneously tackle very diverse sound material made up of Indian rhythms, natural harmonic series, chromatic and quarter-tone scales, as well as existing burial hymns. The difficulties in solving the interpretation of this multi-ensemble piece will be taken on this year by a specially created Gaida Ensemble of Lithuania's best instrumentalists.

Another premiere is planned for the 2003 Gaida Festival, as a continuation of the two year cultural exchange program between Sweden and Lithuania. Commissioned by Rikskonserter, the composer has already started to write a piece of roughly 15-minute span, which should reflect his ideas regarding time and its flow, as well as previously implemented elements of African music, combined with "very accurate rhythms and finest means of articulation". After listening to a fair number of Lithuanian recordings, the Swedish KammarensembleN, which will premiere the work, recommended Nakas for this project. Šarūnas Nakas, who has a great deal of experience working with his own ensemble, will be provided with a possibility to rehearse his new piece with the performers, in Sweden. "I am convinced that one can only write a part of the desired information into a score, and that a multitude of other things need to be conveyed by word, movement - or simply intuitively."

© Ramunė Kazlauskaitė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 5

Piano Circus: Transmission

Šarūnas Nakas Merz-Machine

Piano Circus PCD003, 2002