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Music of war.

Despite the sounds of shells, machine-guns, and snipers, Josip Magdic, Sarajevo composer, keeps composing computer tunes.

Constant artillery and gunfire crackles, the presence of death, the lack of food, water, and electricity during the months of war in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, have forced many residents to flee the city.

Josip Magdic, composer, conductor, and professor at Sarajevo's Music Academy, decided to stay.

Like many others, Magdic's family is separated by war. His wife and two daughters are living as refugees in three different European countries. In his apartment in Sarajevo, he lives together with his third daughter and her boyfriend.

Between shelling and sniper bullets, school classes and fetching water, Josip Magdic finds the time and inspiration for composing computer tunes in his battered apartment on the eleventh floor of the high-rise building on Sarajevo's "Sniper Alley." Instead of playing his synthesizer, he sits and plays at an old piano because there is no electricity in this city of war.

Magdic is composing computer music, similar to the type made by Jean-Michel Jarre. For that, in any normal situation, he would need electricity. But life in Sarajevo hasn't been normal since April 1992.

"The computer cannot work without electricity," he says. "But I have gotten so used to working without it, on my piano, that when power is restored occasionally, I don't know what to do."

Magdic says that while he is playing the piano he simultaneously reworks the sounds in his head, making the tones sound more electronic, like the sounds his synth would make.

Since the beginning of the war, Magdic has no running water in his eleventh-floor flat. Sometimes he has to walk over three miles, sometimes under sniper fire or shelling, to get water from pumps in another part of town.

"For me, the best moment for composing is after such a walk, because I warm up," he says.

During the twenty-two months of war, he managed to compose over twenty musical pieces, and to hold over one hundred concerts in Sarajevo.

Some of his best war compositions are Christmas Etude, which he composed in celebration of the 175th anniversary of the famous Christmas carol "Silent Night," The Notes of the War '92, and Sarajevo's War Post Cards, which was inspired by the destruction of main Sarajevo cultural objects, such as the National Library and City Hall. He also composed Besieged Status, which was inspired by Albert Camus.

Some pieces he composed several years ago already bore traces of an approaching Apocalypse, the war in his city.

"I don't believe that final Apocalypse will come, as it says in the Bible," Magdic said. "Life is full of small Apocalypses, and we have to manage to live through them."

Magdic says that fifty-six different projectiles pounded his building which is well exposed to the Serbian artillery on Mt. Irebevic. His building is so badly damaged that the southern part is totally deserted.

For him, survival is music. Getting deep into his music and composing, Magdic forgets the sniper bullets, and somehow the close shell blasts start tiding away.

"I wanted to fight against the war and aggression somehow. Music is my best and only weapon," Magdic said.

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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sarajevo composer Josip Magdic
Author:Slavicek, Gordana
Publication:Perspectives of New Music
Date:Jan 1, 1995
Words:529
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