This matinee performance showcases works with a variety of ties to Indonesian gamelan music: Colin McPhee wrote his transcriptions of original Balinese music for two pianos in an attempt to impart his fascination with the music to a Western audience. With Lou Harrison, the search for new melodies prevails. Dieter Mack takes collective aspects and cyclic structures as his focus. Slamet A. Sjukur’s duet for flute and percussion, “Ji-lala-Ji”, seems to stand outside of the Indonesian musical tradition. Yet the piece is based on a traditional folk song and is concerned with re-examining certain aspects of performance techniques in the history of West Javanese music.
Colin McPhee (1900-1964): Balinese Ceremonial Music (1936) for two pianos
Holger Groschopp and Angela Gassenhuber
Lou Harrison (1917 – 2003): - Suite for Violin, Piano and Small Orchestra (1985) for solo piano, solo violin and two flutes, oboe, tack piano, harp, celesta, tam-tam two cellos and bass
Holger Groschopp, piano
Angela Gassenhuber, celesta
Philip Mayers, tack-piano
Nari Brandner, solo violine
Frauke Ross, Gergely Bodoky, flute
Isabel Mayer, oboe
Elsie Bedleem, harp
Adele Bitter, Leslie Riva, cello
Matthias Hendel, contrabass
Jens Hilse, tam-tam
Slamet A. Sjukur - Ji Lala Ji (1989) for flute und percussion
Frauke Ross, flutes
Jens Hilse, drums
Dieter Mack - Taro (1987) for flute, bass clarinet, percussion und two pianos
Holger Groschopp, Angela Gassenhuber, piano
Frauke Ross, flute
Richard Obermayer, bass-clarinet
Jens Hilse, drums
Colin McPhee: In his early musical career, Colin McPhee was known primarily for his virtuoso piano playing. His compositions reveal an interest in the neo-classicism so popular at the time, which he employed with a particular emphasis on ingenious rhythmical structures reminiscent of Stravinsky or Bartok. In the late 1920s, Henry Cowell introduced McPhee to his first phonograph recording of Balinese gamelan music, which would fundamentally change the latter composer’s life. McPhee lived in Bali for a total of nine years and, upon his return, wrote a book on Balinese music which is regarded as the standard text on the subject even today. Unfortunately, McPhee, who lived in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, was no longer able to find his footing in the West. The same holds true for his compositions, and he was sadly unable to witness the 1966 publication of his magnum opus.
His piece, Balinese Ceremonial Music, is not an authentic work for piano, but rather a faithful transcription—down to the note—of Balinese gamelan music. Here, McPhee attempts to reproduce the strokes of the large gong, which serve to mark sections in the piece, with specific chords on the piano. Of course the well-tempered scale that he uses in this work is only a close approximation of both Balinese scales, which are based on entirely different musical principles. One is tempted to call such an approach into question, yet it is interesting that the people of Bali immediately recognise their own music in this piece, and indeed are quite accepting of McPhee’s rendition. In most cases, the only criticism was directed at the somewhat rigid sound of the piano!
Ji – Lala – Ji was composed in 1989 for Olaf Tzschoppe (percussion) and Frauke Schnabel (flute), occasioned by Slamet A. Sjukur’s stay in Germany. This work, which at first glance appears simple, is in actuality not at all easy to analyse – whether in regard to its relationship to the underlying folk song Jali-Jali or the relationships of the instruments to one another. It is notable that the two instruments never make music at the same time except at the “hinge” sections. The piccolo flute and bongos play on top of each other only at the end, during the composed fade-out. But even at this point, except for similar sounds, there is no definite musical relationship between the two instruments, just more or less independent playing.
Overall, we can detect a percussive character that underlies the entire piece. The nature of the pitch structures is, at most, associative, but ultimately one of timbre. These structures do indeed at times come close to imitating the percussion—just as the various pitches in the percussive sound are often consciously employed in a “melodic” manner.
Yet it is primarily the various unique playing techniques on the flute that imply ambiguity, which can aptly be characterised as “Schwankungen am Rande” (Fluctuations Around the Edges), to quote a title by Lachenmann. It is thus fully understandable that musicians who see themselves as precise interpretors of a score have a difficult time with the open notation of this work, and indeed with the conception behind the work itself.
In the end, one could gain a closer appreciation of the piece by looking at its title, which is nothing more than the permutation of the letters in the folksong’s name. In a similar gesture, Sjukur uses the notes of the melody and rhythmic forms to the same end.
Taro by Dieter Mack is based on a type of melodic core that works in counterpoint with a rhythmic texture and is articulated by various levels of accents. The in part “minimalist” interactions between the musicians are realised by using, for example, unison lines in both pianos, where one pianist alone could achieve the same texture. Yet this would destroy the compositional idea and the intended expression. Another interaction exists between the percussion and the pianos; in certain phrases, the pianists’ timing determines the percussion, whereas with certain especially drawn-out notes, the texture of the percussion determines that of the pianos. These, as well as other forms of interaction, are the result of Mack’s practical experience with Balinese and Sundanese gamelan music.
For this reason, Taro is not merely an imitation of the musical language of a different culture, but rather the attempt to realise a different concept of music-making within one’s own musical language—one that is indebted to the Western tradition.
Within the framework of the Asia-Pacific Weeks, which are supported by the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin (DKLB).