Diana Čemerytė: Thirty Percent of Silence

Born in: Panevėžys, Lithuania
Resident of: Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Age: 30
Studied with: Osvaldas Balakauskas
Favourite composers: Arvo Pärt, Morton Feldman, Salvatore Sciarrino, John Tavener
Motto: not to clutter anything with music

photo: Andreas Grün

There must be at least thirty percent of silence. It sometimes occupies half of the piece, and sometimes - like breathing or reflection - even more. "I don't like clatter, and I think that music that's not overloaded is more effective" - the attitude of this young composer, who lives from her work, sounds, without reservation, serious. There's not even a hint of frivolity also in her new, five minute long composition, called Still. Čemerytė: "Here I reduced the musical language totally, and concentrated on the rests and single notes." One gesture per composition - that's all this author needs. She was already writing ascetic scores, e.g., Dvi trise, composed from two notes only, back in her study years. The point of departure in Still is the pleasure of silence. The work was commissioned by the "Frau und Musik" archive in Frankfurt, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Twenty-five female composers from around the world submitted compositions for piano, which will be performed in that city in October, and subsequently released in the archive's anniversary collection.

Another of Diana Čemerytė's works - Lamentation, a sound rose in memory of the women of Ravensbrück, performed by the Tempera String Quartet from Finland - was included in a CD released last year in Germany. Tastefully strung together out of a number of different styles (from 'sprinkled' textures à la Webern to the harmonies of Schubert's Der Leiermann, to echoes of the dodecatonic work of her own teacher, Osvaldas Balakauskas) and moods, it is most hypnotic in the fragile moments bordering on silence. For this piece, the author chose the expression of a cold beauty, avoiding the straightforward reflection of atrocious subject. While writing Lamentation, the composer read a book about the women's concentration camp in Ravensbrück - the theme of the 2003 European Chamber Music Days, for which the Ministry of Culture of Brandenburg commissioned her work.

Books, and various other forms of literature frequently inspire the composer, though sometimes the impulse for a work arises from a particular combination of instruments: "I don't know whether I'd be inspired by images of nature - perhaps more by theatre or a good painting." Thus, after a visit to an art exhibition, emerged Lonely Picasso Stands in Prickly Grass for guitar and cello, the premiere of which was performed by Saulius Lipčius, Jr. and Sr., in the Purcell Room of the Royal Festival Hall, June 2003.

"I'm not one of those who write only for themselves. Why write in that case? Although in Lithuania, I was reconciled to the fact that only a very small circle of people is interested in this kind of music. In Germany, however, there are more of them, and they are very accustomed to listening to new music," says the composer, who is ever more frequently presenting her new works to the German audience. The premiere, on June 18, of her cycle of five songs for soprano and piano, Singing of Longing, took place at the Museum der Weltkulturen in Frankfurt, where it was performed by Vilma Pigagaitė and Leonidas Dorfmanas. The same musicians will perform this piece in Osnabrück, this winter. With a scholarship from the Frankfurt am Main Mozart Foundation, Diana Čemerytė plans to write new work for that city's new music ensemble, Mutare. The work, which will be performed in May, will probably be written for clarinet, accordion, and the string quartet, which appears quite frequently in Diana Čemerytė's compositions.

As a student of musicology at the J. W. Goethe University in Frankfurt, the composer tries to keep fit by taking part in various events and courses of early and new music. She does this with no attempt, however, to chase after, or 'try on' the latest fashions, but rather by searching for congenial works - the kind which can accomodate even more silence.

© Ramunė Kazlauskaitė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 9