Šarūnas Nakas: Preaching to the Barbarians


Šarūnas Nakas eschews ideas of pure, absolute music, asserting that he is certainly not interested in the "matter-of-fact mulling over musical structures". What he is really concerned with often has to do with manifestations of ideology, anthropology and 'latent' depositories of mind. Nakas: "I make absolutely no difference between writing texts, either verbal or musical, and plotting my narratives in well-nigh theatrical manner. Everything I do stem from one and the same thing, irrespective of what form or expression I choose to employ". In past few years he has more than once demonstrated how this notion of undivided creativity works in both composing extremely complex conglomerates of different types of rhetoric, fraught with symbols of ancient civilizations and postindustrial world (Ziqquratu-II, 1999, Aporia, 2001), and brainstorming his audiences with socially critical manifestos in his electro-acoustic performances (Falling Portraits, Broken Hearts, Eternal Victims, 2002, I Was Shot, 2003, Sanguis Is Blood, 2003).


photo: Dmitry Matveyev

Compared to works that gravitate towards new complexity, Šarūnas Nakas' latest piece Drang nach Westen. A New Sermon to the Barbarians, written on commission from the Swedish Concert Institute for KammarensembleN, is much more closer to concert tradition. Obviously, it is for this particular reason that the composer described his new composition as "an old-fashioned lecturing for five micro-ensembles within one multi-ensemble".

Incidentally, this is not the first time that the composer splits the ensemble into several groups, independent from each other and simultaneously playing totally different material. The principle of combining different layers of simultaneous sound resulting in multi-ensemble was first applied in his choral composition The Moon Rolling on Awns (1984), and is also prominent in more recent Aporia. In this respect, Drang nach Westen may be defined as a quodlibet or a multi-sutartinės, made up of vertically stacked and tangled types of musical rhetoric, such as baroque-like fanfares, chorale, organum, sutartinės, and even gamelan. They are easy to recognize as certain styles, stereotypes or familiar fragments. On the other hand, every layer is derived from the identical material which is rendered unrecognisable through various deformations. The entire structure was designed according to the original principle discovered by the composer while figuring out the concept of Ziqquratu (1998). According to this principle, the composition emerges out of sundry graphic shapes - myriads of ornamental patterns and sketches, sometimes resembling some utopian architectural objects. "This is the music of power - relentless constant of fortissimo. At the same time it is quite meditative, as a kind of sustained contemplation, though the music is fast, loud and harsh throughout. In terms of style, there is nothing like traditional complexity; however, Swedish performers will have to withstand the session of extreme tension, requiring much endurance and stamina", presaged Nakas. The composer will have an almost weeklong opportunity to instigate fighting spirit of KammarensembleN and its guest conductor Franck Ollu before they will premiere the work at the Gaida Festival in Vilnius. Thereafter the piece will be recorded and released by the Swedish label Caprice.

Another internationally acclaimed ensemble, having decades of experience and huge reputation in the field of avant-garde music, ensemble die reihe, will be performing Šarūnas Nakas' Chronon (1992-1997) with Gottfried Rabl conducting on November 9 at the Wien Modern festival in Vienna. From the sheave of recent works by various Lithuanian composers, the ensemble picked up this refinedly abstract and structurally complex composition of challenging virtuosity, which has been long deemed unplayable in Lithuania. "This performance seems to me the most important event of the year", says Nakas.

© Veronika Janatjeva

Lithuanian Music Link No. 7

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