Texts

THE ARCHITECTURE OF SILENCE

FIELDS, TRACES, CLOUDS

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Jürg Frey

THE ARCHITECTURE OF SILENCE

 

There is a music in which the time-space of sound and the time-space of silence appear in their own particular realms. Even when the sounds are often very soft, the music is not about falling into silence. The sounds are clear, direct and precise. Because they have left musical rhetoric behind, there is instead a sensitivity for the presence of sound and for the physicality of silence. There are long time spans for the presence of sound, and long time spans for the absence of sound. The two together form the "time present" of the piece.

In the silence a space is opened which can only be opened with the disappearance of sound. The silence which is then experienced, derives its power from the absence of the sounds we have just heard. Thus the time-space of silence comes into being, and then comes the physicality of silence.

Permeability, which is the physicality of silence itself, consists of the impossibility of saying anything about its content. Sounds can approach this permeability, but cannot achieve it. Sounds always occur as a formation or a shaping. They come into being by crossing a border which divides them from all others. At this border, everything formed becomes particular. Silence does not know this border. There is no silence through production. Silence is just there, where no sound is.

There are pieces in which the absence of sound has become a fundamental feature. The silence is not uninfluenced by the sounds which were previously heard. These sounds make the silence possible by their ceasing and give it a glimmer of content. As the space of silence stretches itself out, the sounds weaken in our memory. Thus is the long breath between the time of sound and the space of silence created. Silence can also be present in the sounds. In order to have silence in sounds, one must let go of everything which gets in the way of this silence. This sound is a sound without the idea of what it can mean or how it should be used. This sound achieves a hint of permeability, which otherwise belongs only to silence. This sound is the Da-sein (being there) of sound. Its presence and charisma make themselves felt in the composition. Silence requires one decision: sound or no sound. Sound requires a great many more decisions. These shape the sound and give it its quality, feeling and its content. Thus silence, in its comprehensive, monolithic presence always stands as one against an infinite number of sounds or sound forms. Both stamp time and space, in that they come into appearance, in an existential sense. Together they comprise the entire complexity of life.

 


___________________________________________________________
Jürg Frey
FIELDS, TRACES, CLOUDS

Last summer I took a picture of a meadow. 

The grass is cut, slight hints of traces, little flowers, the light is normal, unspectacular. 

It’s not wilderness. It’s also not cultivated in the sense of agriculture. It’s near to fallow land. 

When I was working on Fields, Traces, Clouds I recognized in the picture sometimes a mental neighborhood to my work I’m going to finish. Even if I don’t make a link to my composition craft, the picture gives a atmosphere of sensibility, colours, patterns and connections. It’s a space of intensity and calm density. 

As a form of expression it looks good, but it does not give the impression of creativity. 


I’m a listener. 

I lay out the material, and therein I may discover my music. 

When I find parts of my music, it becomes a necessity to write it down and to work it out. Now the words “Fields, Traces, Clouds” are not simply the title of a piece, but also a hint to my working method. Fallow land is the place where my work begins, as a listener, as a discoverer. Creativity is disturbing here, this word is too loud in this context. I like more the idea of inspiration, it comes quietly, inaudibly, fast.

Music is not a given language with a accepted vocabulary, it’s the other way around: I need much time to elicit a musical meaning from a sound, a chord, a combination of two elements.

The basic of this work are precision, attention, care – and not at least the feeling how easily the musical meaning can be de­stroyed by unsuitable manipulations. It’s the work on the sur­face of a piece to discover the sense in the underground of the music. 

“Fields, Traces, Clouds” is a piece that consists as a matter of fact of two superimposed pieces. One is a sparse melody and goes within 25 minutes through the whole ensemble. It starts with violin, goes on to cello, clarinet, keyboard and ends with guitar. And the other piece is a list of sounds for each instru­ment, played from top to bottom in the given order but in an open timeline. Both pieces interlock one into the other and are played simultaneously. 

In the sense of technic, it’s a loose counterpoint of two. The two interact during the performance in a unexpected, for many de­tails surprising manner. It gives an atmosphere of carefulness but clearness in decisions, it’s a slightly hanging around in the piece, but with responsibility. As a form of expression, it sounds good, but it does not give the impression of creativity. 
“Fields, Traces, Clouds” is not program music and it’s not a piece about the meadow on the photography. The picture of the field is more like an image or a visual poem, a second level room in the background for the countless decisions that have to be made when I work in the sketchbook.

“Fields, Traces, Clouds” may help me to understand the space of a composition, the weight and the lightness of material, the sound graininess, the volume, and the sense of so-called high and poor quality of sounds and timbres. 

It’s metaphorical and it may give intuition a direction. 

The real thing when I write music is the material. This is not in the background, but the sounds I take and work on. It’s on my working desk. The musical material is the ground for the music. The musical material is transformed to an artwork. 

With the words of William Carlos Williams: The same thing exists, but in a different condition when energized by imagination. 

The things which exists for a composer are not a photography, but musical material like g#, d-flat, the instrument, the duration, the break. 
The composition Fields, Traces, Clouds is not just the two superimposed pieces, but it’s also on the threshold of melody and sound field. Sometimes it’s more a tune, sometimes it’s more a state of mind. It may move to this or that direction and keeps the other always in mind. 

I consider the position on the threshold not as a weakness for decisions. This position reflects in sounds the complexity of different decisions and feelings and avoids a black-and-white act. 

It’s an equilibrium in movement, a shimmer of melody and harmony in floating categories. A slight vibration that creates the delicate energy for the piece.