Track of the Month: August
Vit Zouhar's "Days," for flute, harpsichord, and string trio
Vit Zouhar is a Czech composer, musicologist, and educator acclaimed for his chamber, orchestral, and electro-acoustical works. He studied composition at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts and musicology at Masaryk University in Brno. He is vice-president of the Bohuslav Martinu Foundation and author of the book Postmodern Music? German Debate at the End of the 20th Century.
Here is the composer's description of "Days:"
"I vividly recall the rapid succession of situations, names, and memories that came to my mind when Mark Ludwig asked me to write a new composition for the Terezín Music Foundation: the Pavel Haas Symphony, which could be completed by my father; a trip outside Prague; Mum’s colleague singing at the premiere of Brundibár; the environs of Weimar with my parents and sister; a documentary about Terezín; a garden table and bench; Viktor Ullmann’s remark: “Theresienstadt war und ist für mich Schule der Form (Theresienstadt was and remains for me a school that teaches structure.).” Mark’s request named the space these images held in my imagination.
"My attention was drawn to the garden table. In the 1944 documentary Theresienstadt there is a scene in which people are chatting behind something that resembles a garden table. The shot aims to create the impression of harmony, relaxation; the camera slowly passes several tables where smiling, well-dressed people convivially talk, play cards, enjoy themselves. Yet the repetition of tables arranged one after another within a single shot, tables that, in addition, are divided by plank beds, looks strange. I began slowing down the shot. And it was this that ultimately determined the concept and principles of my composition: observance, repetition. Processes during which contrasting objects do not lose their original meaning yet seem to come together and become similar.
"The composition Days is a succession of contradictory and easily discerned musical gestures (diary entries) that repeat, return, blend, overlap, and decelerate. They hover in time. Their returns accentuate the similarity of details and erase differences. Yet they do not lose their original character.
"The composition consists of a one-movement irregular arch whose drama is built on the principles of contrast and gradation. Its structure refers to the tradition of three-part form, as well as the golden section. Although individual objects are not narrative, they jointly facilitate another narration. A double reference is also the centre of gravity of the G pattern. In addition to the traditional characteristics borne by the G minor and G major keys, it is also the letter “G” as the designation G 484, which was inscribed on the first family transport from Brno to Terezín.
"The title of the composition, Days, is deliberately neutral. It denominates the time frame, context, the only real bond within which everything takes place and in which memories are concentrated. Many things seemingly do not exist. When having a cursory glance at the imaginary landscape, everything gives the impression of a wasteland, where there is nothing. Yet a single concentrated look into an arbitrary point suffices, and all of a sudden the upper layer is uncovered.
"The composition was commissioned by the Terezín Music Foundation and is dedicated to its director, the violist Mark Ludwig. Its world premiere will be given at the Prague Spring festival on 15 May 2012."