Far Away, But Ever Closer – the Album that Questions the Notion of Distance

  • Jan. 23, 2019

2018 was an incredibly prolific year for the Music Information Centre Lithuania, with 20 music products of different formats (including scores, CDs, and a LP). One of them – a CD compilation Far Away, But Ever Closer – presents new works by the rising generation of Lithuanian composers. The distinguishing feature of the album is that it showcases compositions by artists born and educated in Lithuania, who are currently living and working elsewhere. Scattered around the world, their works are better known overseas than they are back home. Relentless and eager to push the boundaries of composition in its classical form, they break rules, or create their own, explore the alternative creative outlets, and blend them together.

The album features 9 compositions by Andrius Arutiunian, Gediminas Žygus, Jūra Elena Šedytė, Donatas Tubutis, Juta Pranulytė, Justina Šikšnelytė, Aurimas Bavarskis, Aistė Noreikaitė, and Vitalija Glovackytė. The sound is predominantly electronic or electroacoustic, partially determined by the fact that a few artists are graduates from the Sonology Institute at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, which specializes in digital music creation, sound art, algorithmic composition, sound and space analysis, and integrated lab science, programming, and acoustics.

Album curator Edvardas Šumila has dedicated much of the past year to get to know the authors, and handpicking works for the compilation. His commentary on emigration and globalization is featured in the album liner notes. “This collection was born as a response to the growing artistic diaspora of young Lithuanian composers abroad. It is an extension of the article of the same title I published in the 2016 issue of the Lithuanian Music Link. The insights I have developed in the process intrigued me enough to pursue the subject further, and led to fresh conclusions”, says Šumila.

“The subject called for examination of different overlapping social and artistic trends, such as cross-border mobility, and its effects on their different sound practices. It also urged to reflect on artistic differences, and their origins. The title “Far Away, But Ever Closer” accurately captures the phenomenon that is even more visible today than it was two years ago – the émigré artists return and leave again, but seem much closer to home than ever before”, shares Šumila, who has recently enrolled in a Philosophy Studies program at the New School for Social Research in New York City, USA, and therefore identifies with the subject matter even more.

All featured artists pursue their own different interests and use different media. The selection highlights their dissimilarities, and allows for a better understanding of how they differ from the Lithuanian context. Šumila further suggests that the “innate ‘otherness’ of the featured artists often resulted in their decision to seek development opportunities abroad, for the ecosystem of creative practices and trends in Lithuania is, alas, quite limited. Nevertheless, he insists that the cultural climate in Lithuania is quickly adapting, and soon we will witness the emergence of local artists working with improvisatory music, interdisciplinary and sonic arts, and who conceptually employ modern technology in their practice. Similarly, the culture of presentation and curatorship of new works will keep changing accordingly.”

Despite frequent changes, the final cover design by Anastasija Sosunova and Eglė Ruibytė is completely in tune with both the concept and the content of the album. As commented by Eglė Ruibytė, “all the graphic elements are essentially crude, intentionally imperfect and irregular. It was a conscious artistic choice that alludes to the flawed Lithuanian cultural sphere and its rehabilitation through the international alliances – almost like a simple pencil sketch processed through a digital filter”.

Anastasija Sosunova further adds, “We wanted to rethink our own identity, culture and geography in the context of the experimental artistic landscape of the EU, and beyond, that the Lithuanian émigré artists are embedded in. In our graphic material we juxtaposed altered and intentionally skewed symbols for globalism and nationalism, as if questioning the pre-existing ideas about what is ‘foreign’, what is national belonging, and what is distance, and proximity.”

Presentation of the new album will take place during the Vilnius Book Fair. It is available for purchase online, and at the Lithuanian Music Information Centre (A. Mickevičiaus 29, Vilnius).