BUTSUMYÔE, SAPPHO HIKETIS, YO-IN.
ANÂHATA, ERKOS, BUTSUMYÔE,
SAPPHO HIKETIS, YO-IN.
Jean-Claude Eloy is a former student of the Paris Conservatory. During his years at the University of Berkeley, he encountered Asian culture, which has influenced his works. Today, he is considered as one of the most original composers. He combines European tradition with Japan's ancient art, electronic music with Buddhist monk chants. On the last Friday, the audience attending the "Warsaw Autumn" Festival had the chance to hear one of his most famous pieces. "Anahata", in its three-hour version, shortened and specially rearrangedfor the Polish audience.
The composer tells his fascination for Japan: "In 1956, I discovered Gagaku music thanks to a record that my sister brought back from Japan. Its beauty fascinated me. However, at that time I was focusing on my piano studies. If someone had told me that, one day, Buddhist monks would be my closest partners, I would not have believed them. I only understood how much our way of thinking was similar in 1982 as I was searching for sources of inspiration for a commission by the National Theater of Japan."
"Anahata" is contemplation music of extraordinary duration. The difficulty it represents to the Europeans is similar for instance to the melodic narrations of the Nô traditional theater. Eloy combines monk chants, the sounds of percussion instruments, the harmonica and sound tracks. Due to the duration of the work, Eloy reserves the piece to prestigious music events.
This Saturday, the "Warsaw Autumn" invites you to a second evening, or night should we say, to discover Eloy's music. The 8 pm concert will feature "Yo-In", a composition for an imaginary ritual in four acts. The score of this mysterious four-hour-long show is mainly based on the huge assembly of about a hundred percussion instruments used in Ancient Asia. Michael Ranta, the outstanding American percussionist who came from Germany will also be there.
GAZETA WYBORCZA (Warsaw)
From the first days of the festival
on, one can tell that this year's "Autumn" is a good one. The
listeners, who had come in great numbers this year thanks in part
to the very reasonable ticket prices, agree.
The interpretation is splendid, and the music mostly interesting. Two themes have prevailed so far: Eastern influence and Polish music.
Is the East exotic?
A wind of exoticism has blown over the festival as of the first sounds of the Chinese ocarinas of the "Orchestral Theatre II-Xun" of Tan Dun. [ ] A different work was seen for instance with Japanese composer Akira Nishimura [ ] Zbigniew Baginski and Wlodzimierz Kotonski handle elements borrowed from the East as a "natural curiosity".
Jean-Claude Eloy's thinking is different. He tries to assimilate all the elements together: the Eastern way of living time and the aestheticism of French "concrete music" (tape music coming from sounds of nature), the Eastern and Western cultures. Eloy claims to be linked to the traditions of Japan, Indonesia and Turkey "just as to the works of Wagner, Boulez, Monteverdi and Beethoven", and he is against the use of the term "exoticism". This point of view gave birth to an extraordinary hotchpotch of music. Many are those who call the composer a phoney the use of about a hundred Eastern percussion instruments and his remarkable musicians (e.g.: percussionist Michael Ranta, Buddhist monks, singer Fatima Miranda) appeals to the crowds. However, let us take the electro-acoustic segments recorded by Eloy or let us observe his works as a counter argument: the changes in music style occur at the very moment when the latter one starts to bore us. These two days with Eloy were really fascinating and the shock was great, even though the uninformed audience sometimes left the hall, the thirst of the enthusiastic listeners was not quenched yet by 2 am. [ ]
(photo: Koshin Ebihara, a Buddhist monk, singing "Anâhata" at studio S1)
The 37th International Festival of Contemporary Music "Autumn in Warsaw" [ ] As the preceding years, the festival audience only heard works composed at least over two years ago except for a few ones. Among those were experiences with Eastern music by Jean-Claude Eloy and the preview of a giant work by Augustyn Bloch, of the concerto for violin by Hanna Kulenta, and other pieces already known outside of Poland. [ ]
The festival seems to retain its image of quality at the national level and on the international music market thanks to that specific "conservatory-style programming". The criteria allowing the representation of works are very strict. The selection of already acclaimed pieces obviously lowers the risk. This year, the festival did not hesitate to present much debated works such as two concerts by above-mentioned Jean-Claude Eloy, the artist formerly accursed by Parisian composers. [ ]
Impression of the 37th "Autumn of Warsaw"
The "Autumn of Warsaw" contemporary music festival just came to an end in the Polish capital. After the father-like figure of Witold Lutoslawski left, people were curious to know what course the organizers were going to follow.
By Thomas Schacher
The central theme of the 27 concerts of the festival was the union between East and West. Before, this motto meant, most of all, an exchange of artistic points of view between composers and musicians from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Since the opening of the Polish borders, the horizon has broadened. Today, the East is neither in Warsaw or Moscow, but in Beijing or Tokyo.
The presentation of French composer Jean-Claude Eloy's work was characteristic of this new direction. Criticizing the Eurocentricism of many current composers, he advocates the junction of Western music with the other great music cultures of the world. "Erkos" successfully combines the Japanese tradition of the Satsuma-Biwa and the Shômyô with modern Western music writing and with the possibilities of sound enrichment offered by electro-acoustics. However, "Erkos" evoked the desired suggestive effect primarily thanks to the personality of Japanese musician Junko Ueda to whom the work seemed to have been tailored. [...]
PRZEGLAD MUZYCZNY (Warsaw)
In his commentary published in the "Warsaw Autumn" program, Jean-Claude Eloy claimed he belonged to the "musical minority". Currently, the Western civilization is focusing on all kind of minority issues starting with national issues and ending with sexual issues. A minority is distinguished in a very simple way: a minority is different from a majority. The equal rights of a minority as well as the acceptance of all that which is different are one of the keys to accessing a contemporary reflection on human condition (that is my vision of the world). A magic phrase of post-modernism says that the world is a set of various equal and independent minorities to whom everybody can belong provided that they follow the rules of the game. This very much sounds like the type of Japanese culture that Ruth Benedict talked about in her works fifty years ago. Today, anthropologists readily refer to contemporary Japan as an example of personified post-modernism. As regards the design of the world, the exhaustion of the West towards the Major Ideas and the tiny perfection of the Japanese interpretation apparently gave a similar effect. What is the reason of this similitude? Would the same tests of existence allow not only to accept differences but also to understand them?
This fascination for opportunities offered through the multi-civilization of the modern world is conceivable, however is it understandable? Obviously, I do not suspect that Eloy is trying to attain a picturesque exoticism or a purifying exoticism as the word "exotic" makes him quiver. Alternatively, is it a modern and conscious operation on his part that he imposes on the musical texts of culture? Or does the composer think that there is an extra-textual reality to be felt? What is his creation referring to traditions so remote from the ones he used to know? Is it the interpretation of the text or the interpretation of reality?
The look that the Europeans now cast on exoticism, hence on everything that is foreign to them, originates from the stereotyped modernist perception of the unknown. I believe that it was one of the reasons why masses of listeners left during the presentation and after the first and second part of the concert. Collectors and tourists alike are both constantly searching for the difference because it allows them to become aware of the fact that they can dominate a large part of the earth by looking for specimens or souvenirs. Eloy is neither one nor the other. Buddhists chant compositions created by a European. Thus, it is impossible to classify the works as examples of "traditional Japanese music", and even less as a contemplative folklore for tourists hoping to live "real tests".
Eloy's work does not yield the nonchalance
of a winner, so present in museums and tourism. The composer is quite
aware of his trade. He perfectly interprets the musical text of the Far
East with another text. Interpretations pile up as Japanese culture itself
is widely based on interpretation.
Among the texts used by Eloy, one of them
relates the story of an old woman who recognized the face of her lovers
in front of every one of the five hundred Buddha statues. Likewise, Eloy's
music refers to our imagination and our cultural experiences. The richer,
the more one has flirted with a foreign culture, the more one will recognize
familiar faces among the sounds and the closer the music itself will come
to us. Eloy's demanding high artistic skills from his public requires
him to be placed in the "musical minority".
This kind of music is neither an intellectual culture game nor a narration on the suffering of the Ancient Greeks . It tries to refer us to a place where, as post-modernist think, we are not and where we will never be. A place where everything moves beyond human reality.
With the French composer, the sound, although treated as a post-modernist text, tries to reach the absolute. Eloy believes in the transgressive power of music. The same character of such a statement is observed in "Yo-in" the piece that uses poeticism of the art of action (e.g. the candles forming an ideogram jiyu freedom, the outfit of the percussionist-actor of that very long show), and which despite the extremely exotic instrumental distribution is the most European work among all the featured compositions. The transgression properly speaking (but also in the deep sense of the term) concerns the vocal parts in Sappho Hikétis and Butsumyoe interpreted by Fatima Miranda. This artist carried her voice beyond the whole creation, in a way which was borderline unbearable. The excess of pleasure whose goal is to aggravate the senses can sometimes hurt. Saturday night's concert felt more European than that of Friday. Certain stories seemed to have been told in the hope of changing something, whereas we learned on the first day that narrations could not change the course of history. Here is the meaning of the narration:
Even though I am sure,
Erkos's music, both violent and moderated, interpreted by Junko Ueda, was a tribute to the eternal sanctity, indifferent to human veneration. The power of lyrical expression of the Japanese artist seemed to go beyond that divine insensibility. The traditional way to move beyond reality is contemplation. Here is Anahata's specificity where the vocal parts were interpreted by two Buddhists and Junko Ueda. If the public had not left the hall, one would have had the impression of attending a sort of border crossing between that which exists and that which does not, a transgression of time. An extraordinary suspense within a human voice surprisingly mastered and obedient to its own power. On the other hand, time especially seems to be the power that the composer has difficulty taming the size of certain works makes receiving impossible. Nobody said that contacts with the absolute were easy, pleasant and enjoyable, provided of course that the absolute exists and that one is not a victim of the refined wickedness of a scholar juggling with musical quotes. Fortunately, that is not the case with Jean-Claude Eloy.
(photo: Kôshin Ebihara, a Buddhist
monk, performs Eloy's Anâhata)
] We were all waiting for Eloy's
music. I even missed the "Electronic Nights" to listen to him
with a complete lucidity of soul and spirit to contemplate the musical
(photo: Percussionist Michael Ranta performs Anâhata by Jean-Claude Eloy)