Vytautas V. Jurgutis' Sound Unmasked

Vytautas V. Jurgutis, one of the most distinguished young composers in Lithuania (b.1976), is truly an exponent of a new type of multi-faceted artists. A do-it-yourself musician, delving into the depths of sound in his tiny bedroom studio, a mathematician, thinking in sophisticated routines of programming languages. A showman, presenting his works in multimedia settings, doing himself multiple real-time video projections, occasionally playing with modern breakbeats, strobo lights and similar candies for the audience of his contemporaries. A composer of solid academic background, employing vast modernist heritage of advanced instrumental writing...

photo: Dmitry Matveyev

At the beginning of his creative career, Jurgutis was concerned in achieving a certain amalgamation of different, old and new, styles and sensitivities - from echoes of archaic music traditions to the captivating crossover play with pop culture elements in his chamber, electro-acoustic and mixed media works. Starting from 1997, the composer got immersed into research of the origins of sound, its construction and refinement, by using advanced sound programming techniques (such as CSound, SuperCollider and other software, surround sound mixing, etc). Although his sophisticated works are now at the forefront of Lithuanian electronic music, Jurgutis is his own teacher in this area: computer music composition and sound programming are not taught in Lithuania as yet, and there are no Lithuanian traditions in this area. Thus it is hardly likely that one could find any influences or traces of foreign styles in his music: the young author was not looking at work by acclaimed authorities or using samples by others (which is the accepted norm in modern electronic music).

The summary of his recent creative period is presented with six electronic compositions in the new super-audio CD "Sound Masks" released by Swedish Rikskonserter's label Caprice in 2003 (this release was supported by the Sweden-Lithuania, Musical Links 2002-2003 programme). Interestingly, this is the first CD of Lithuanian music released in SACD format. Being refinedly abstract, sometimes even ascetic, the compositions on this CD are all fairly diverse: each of them strives to reveal new aspects and possibilities of electronic sound, each has a clear idea in terms of structure and timbre, a certain axis around which complex, manifold sound objects and processes are organized. Avoiding certain stereotypes of experimental electronic music (straight-in-your-face physical sound power, or prolonged static meditations), Jurgutis tries to give his music a certain consistency, and to seize and hold the listener's attention through dramatically directed expansion of sound material and interchange of various nuances. While performing live, at least two compositions from this CD include also visuals created by the composer: single computer generated video projection for Su60, and triple projections for Telomeros. Thus the composer becomes a multimedia artist, achieving a coherent blend of aural and visual material into a single entity.

Rejecting the stereotypical, somewhat antiquated but still widespread conceits of coldness, mechanization and laboratory clinicism as inevitable attributes of electronic music, Jurgutis seemingly transmutes electronic sound into organic, plastic, changeable substances. And vice versa, his highly complex scores for acoustic settings reveal some coalescence of structure and feel of both, instrumental and electronic music - sometimes to such a degree that it sounds like electronic music performed live on acoustic instruments. In such his works as Ci for symphony orchestra (2000) and Telogenos for large ensemble (2002, premiered by the Gaida Ensemble in its remarkable debut concert at the last year's Gaida Festival), one can hear organically expanding structures undergoing subtle fluctuations or abrupt changes, the "dangerously" unstable substance of sound, erupting in violent outbursts, multiple vistas of surfaces and spectrums. The strict control of musical processes melts away here in the "natural" cycles of birth, evolution and dying-out of sounds, seemingly unaffected by gravitational force of the earth.

Jurgutis' journey across the boundaries of rigorous compositional systems and spontaneous manifestations of live sound (or dare we say, between the worlds of technology and living nature?) continues in his most recent work, Ellipses for string quartet, commissioned by and awaiting its world premiere at the Gaida Festival (and the following repeat performances at the Arena Festival in Riga and the Nyyd Festival in Tallinn) by the renowned Arditti Quartet to whom it is dedicated. This new composition also promises to be quite complex and dynamic, full of microtonal writing and extended string techniques; the composer enjoys the possibility to fulfil his creative vision unrestrained by technical limits of performance, with the help of excellent musicians from the Arditti Quartet.

© Linas Paulauskis

Lithuanian Music Link No. 7

Vytautas V. Jurgutis. Garso kaukės / Sound Masks
Axis / Sound Masks / PoDar / Su60 / Alpha 10 / Telomeros

Caprice CAP 21717, 2003