Raminta Šerkšnytė's Stunt Flight from Norway to Argentina

Dense rhythmic and harmonic textures, a predilection for the sound of massive ensembles, especially that of percussion and brass instruments, concert quality, soundscapes of sharp contrasts and broad dynamic scales remain fundamental indicators identifying Raminta Šerkšnytė's manner of composing. However, the young composer, who in the past few years has made her way into the ranks of the most productive Lithuanian authors, does not allow herself to be drawn into a routine of her own rules: "Each new work is always a challenge to search for something new, while preserving what has already been discovered."

photo: Modestas Ežerskis

A rather unexpected turn towards a new style, marked by the string quartet Oriental Elegy (2002/2003) - inspired by the sounds of nature and named after Aleksandr Sokurov's film - demonstrates how this search and the challenges encountered can be exceptionally fruitful. Following the Japanese haiku tradition, Šerkšnytė went for laconism (the quartet is composed of four 2-3 minute movements) and subtlety of unexpected nuances. The instrumentation here is fraught with extended string techniques that prevail over melodic writing and neo-romantic harmony characteristic of her earlier works.

Along with the quartet, which was acknowledged best chamber work in the Lithuanian Composers' Union Awards 2003, her new composition Vortex for violin solo and ensemble received its premiere at Klangspuren Schwaz 2004 this September. The same performers - violinist Irvine Arditti and the Gaida Ensemble - will present its Lithuanian premiere during the Gaida festival in October. In Vortex, Šerkšnytė treats the concerto form as wrestling between solo and tutti, while continually overlapping contrasting materials result in various poly-modal and polyrhythmic effects. The truly demanding violin part, containing certain references to the avant-garde, is pulled into the vortex of the orchestra's jazzy and minimalist textures - whose centripetal force even a violin virtuoso like Irvine Arditti cannot withstand.

Akin to Oriental Elegy is another new piece by Raminta Šerkšnytė - Sense Six (2004) for five voices and ensemble. Here a mysterious atmosphere of suspense is created by a variety of sound effects, e.g. playing on piano strings, blowing on wind instruments with no sound, etc. Šerkšnytė: "Instruments and voices seem to swap places here: the most important role goes to the brass group, while the voices, whispering or quietly reciting text, serve only as background." Set to text by the Icelandic-born American poet Dan Albertson, the composition touches all five physical senses in turn, and thereby reaches the transcendental sixth - the emotional climax of the work. Sense Six was written for the Dutch ensemble De ereprijs and for singers from the Royal Conservatory of the Hague featured at the closing concert of the 10th International Young Composers' Meeting in Apeldoorn in February 2004. In September their performance of Sense Six also graced the final concert of Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam.

Ever eager to advance her professional skills, Raminta Šerkšnytė is taking part in the 5th Nordic Composersy workshop in Stavanger, Norway. Initiated by the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra of Norway in 1993 and for the first time expanded to include participants from the Baltic countries, this workshop extends over a period of one year and provides young composers with the opportunity to write orchestral music under the supervision of tutors. Raminta Šerkšnytė was selected to take part in the second stage of this programme, and is now writing a piece for the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. In the meantime, the music that Raminta Šerkšnytė has already written is circling the world in unforeseeable flights: departing from Vilnius, Lithuania, where, on October 1, Danielius Praspaliauskis and the Lithuanian Youth Symphony Orchestra under Robertas Šervenikas performed her Saxophone Concerto (2002), and landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where, on October 16, Percusionistas de Buenos Aires will perform her Idée fixe for six percussionists.

© Justė Janulytė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 9