Listening to contemporary academic music: Ulenflucht by Anna Korsun

What is hidden behind the creative process and what is its driving force? The present dictates strict competition rules, in which each music piece becomes more and more individualized and has the right to differ from the general creative concept of a particular author. The piece “for twenty playing and singing performers” by a Ukrainian-German composer is an individual/unique project with the example of which we’ll try to trace the work progress and understand its construction. 

Problem situation

Time to find new methods to achieve a specific phenomenon. A work where twenty performers form a unique synthesis of voices and hunting calls, children’s musical toys or newly created instruments, such as a toy post horn+plastic tube and a corrugated hose. How does one come up with a plan to embody original sound combinations and organize them in time and space? Despite the fact that this world is not verbal at all, must something happen in order for it to crystallize?

Anna Korsun’s art was particularly influenced by John Cage and Helmut Lachenmann, and in vocal music by the German experimental composer Dieter Schnebel, as musicologist Mariya Kautz points. In the Ukrainian environment the author whose main interest is the search of a sound, is particularly self-sufficient. The original “Ulenflucht” (2016) was preceded by no less modern and innovative “The Song of a Fish”, “Vocerumori”, “Wehmut”.

This story does not begin with the words “Once upon a time in Buck Expert…” (beloved place of all nature lovers or hunters). It’s inspired neither by the touching episodes of Harry Potter’ and owl Hedwig’s friendship, nor by the dashing “Hunting Smiles” of the ingenious Ukrainian writer Ostap Vyshnya. One day some of Anna Korsun’s acquaintances remembered a hunting call – a tool with which hunters call their victim or object of interest. Since then, the interested composer has been researching: what are the calls, how do they sound and what can be done with their help. To end this, she implemented “The Time of the Owl’s Flight”-project as a sound installation during her Schloß Solidude Residence, so the organizers funded the purchase of special instruments. Later came the period of their research, recording, systematization, and, finally, filtering.

I did not have a goal to imitate the real voices of animals, but I was interested in both instruments and pure material without connotations. After all, to write a play you still have to choose from this wealth only what is needed for a particular work.

Music, in my opinion, is a self-sufficient art that does not necessarily require verbal and visual symbols.

But what about audio?


Strategy

Stage of comprehension of the following actions. Since “Ulenflucht” translates as “time when owls fly”, “twilight”, how does this affect the construction of the work? “Technical” is not an end in itself for A. Korsun, but always embodies an original image. So owls are reality, symbols or impressions? (“Squirrels and bunnies” of musicology are tempting to explain the extreme sections as episodes of mysterious silence, because owls on the hunt are silent, and in the middle – to imagine a bloody massacre with the cries of their victims). In this video, for example, researchers do not hear owls, but they really shouldn’t: no real symbols, – says the composer.

“Ulenflucht”, despite a similar name with such works by Korsun as “Ucht” and “Zwielicht”, has nothing more to do with them. And the connection with “The Time of the Owl’s Flight” is deeper – the work is written entirely for the calls. And when a composer chooses a title, she pays attention to its phonetics, so that doesn’t conflict with the piece, and to the atmosphere that the semantics of the word can give.

I don’t have literal titles at all – they are just poetic abstractions.

Music, in my opinion, is a self-sufficient art that does not necessarily require verbal and visual symbols.

The principles of process

How exactly is the process of writing a work by a composer? Does the statement about the aestheticization of the musical space become a fundamental in the composition? Perhaps it is derived and subordinated to the general goals of the physical sound coexistence or becomes a self-sufficient parameter of musical action? Recently, the author pays more and more attention to the quality of space. Before writing a work, she must visit the place where the play will be performed. In the case of “Ulenflucht” space plays a particularly important role, because the performers are around the audience – the factor of distance means a lot  and location of musicians is relative to each other and the audience – the circle-centered principle where twenty performers are divided into inner and outer circles, in the middle – the conductor.

For me space is a part of the composition, because, in the end, the play will sound not only in time. That’s why stereo recording for me is usually a pale shadow of what was really going on at the concert.

Performance

The work is quite complex to perform, however on the disc the work is recorded by eight performers. According to the words of Anna Korsun in one of the social networks, quite often in her practice the vocal work is not perceived by professional singers – because of its “complexity”, and then the work has to be performed by amateurs, because they are interested in exploring their own vocal abilities. “Ulenflucht” contains many new findings for the art of Anna Korsun – working with sound, when it balances between silence and itself, the method of performance – intermittent sound:

In the end, it was very difficult to explain this in practice to the performers, not everyone succeeded. Because there must be a solid line, and at the same time, as if “going over the abyss”, sometimes a semi-emerging sound. The mistake many singers made was that they made stops and had to keep the line.

Innovations

The very beginning was new. Before writing the play, the author imagined the beginning: the audience gradually calms down, there comes a moment of silence that fills the hall, which is still filled with noise from everywhere. Thus, the sounds of the play are born in it, and the moment of the beginning merges with the moment of its expectation. In conclusion, a new feature for the author is a way of reproducing sound and attitude to silence not as an abstract vacuum, but as an important component of sound texture. The creativity of the sensitive and at the same time experimentally fearless Anna Korsun bypassed the artificiality and acceleration of the “unbearable lightness” of the XXI century’s society. Reinterpreted, alternative and fresh, constant movement has become her credo.

I try to do what I’m interested in. It is interesting, as a rule, either what has not done before, or the development of a certain idea, the potential of which would not be fully worked out, or the implementation of an alternative scenario for the same idea.

To the listeners

That’s why I love music and why I don’t like verbal explanations for it – for its abstractness, which even in its pure form can create images, can appeal to feelings, sensations, associations, thoughts only with sounds! – their connections and their organization in space and time. And the best thing is that the listener has the right for his own individual path, his own segment of life, which he lives together with the play and gets his own experience – so all his reactions will be completely individual.

I just love listening to different thoughts and impressions after my performances, – it can be radically different from person to person, depending on the context in which the person was listening. An annotation to a piece simply kills that freedom and tells you what you need to hear and what you need to associate with… So, as in other music, the interpretation of what you hear is completely free.

Let’s make sure?*

*In the space version you can click on the various arrows to control the speakers in the virtual room

 

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