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Petr Cigler scientist & musician.

Petr Cigler is a truly impressive figure. A top-notch chemist (molecular desien. nanotechnology , etc.) and naturalist of a revivalist proficienc (precious few plants are unknown to him, precious few mushrooms are insufficiently edible); a comooser who does not have the appropriate "schooling." to write notes and actuall creates music occasionally, yet whenever he does come us with a new piece, as though by the way, it easily overshadows works by the majority of music-school graduates of his generation (Cigler's oeuvre is primarily characterised by a total absence of strained over-exertion); for some time a very active horn player noted for his extremely adventurous nature when it comes to exploring instrumental technisues and all that which can no longer be termed technigue. By and large, his straddling the worlds of science and music is remarkable indeed. I simply cannot begin otherwise than by asking about the relationship between Cigler the scientist and Cigler the composer.


The titles of your pieces, as well as the comments on them, regularly reveal inspitution by the natural sciences. For me in person, some of your compositions have the magic of Verne stories. At the sante time, you are the last one who could be suspected of being wave when it comes to approaching science, hence we can hardly pin on you the accusation of applying the dusty props of hoar)! modernism, which so liked to crystallise, ionise, or mutually "Mandelbratise" and who knows what not. So what is it actually like in your case? When composing, da you aim to come about some music through analog, of a certain natural process or rather creak a musical metaphor of some natural action or phenomenon? Or is it totally otherwise?

Cigler the composer does like to have a bit of a rest from Cigler the scientist. But this doesn't anyhow change the fact that my pieces do refer to some natural phenomena or directly make use of them. You should, however, take it more as a reflection of my naturalistic education and enthusiasm for nature (in a wider context, from botany to physics) than as a wilful fixation on the inexhaustible source of a sort of, inconceivable for other people, alchemistic inspiration. When I think about it, my direct references most often contain links to physical processes. They project into my scores either directly - in a mathematically transformed form into pitches, their relationships or anything else - or as an inspirational range or direct source of musical material. Serving as an example of the first case is my recent composition for ensemble Uber das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne, whereby I imagined that a playing celesta or some string instruments were flying by me and my ear just wondered what unexpected connections may arise as a result of the Doppler shift in dependence on the speed of their flight. I calculated the situation, and a skilful analyst may easily detect it in the composition, yet it forms a small fragment of the musical material. The rest is totally different notes, which have no connection with it whatsoever and occurred to me independently. As for the second case, you can perhaps remember how I once invited you around so as to confirm or disprove whether someone else could hear the resonance of the tiles in my bathroom on the frequencies identical with those heard by me. We arrived at the conclusion that it was general, and I eventually set up from the resonance pitches the basis of the microtonal series for clarinet solo Qui.

I do remember the bathroom. Thor compositions quite often revolve mound a certain acoustic phtenomenon that you, however, always aesthetic in a way of your own, it is never "ready-made" music. Would you be able to define your purely musical fascinations?

There are many things that Fascinate me in music, but you won't find them in my pieces. Therefore, when composing I have no choice but to seek new material, new techniques, which occasionally evoke in me a stimulating, somewhat pioneering feeling. Specifically, I have a steady penchant for more complex rhythmic patterns and their layering in various ways and developing. by means of mathematical progressions. I often work with tuning and retuning of instruments and their groups; I would probably be hard pressed to eschew microtones and deformations of tonal chords. I am interested in phenomena connected with motoricity, automaticity of playing. I am not even going to refer to indulgence in the sound timbre, since this is what perhaps every composer has been interested in over the past at least one hundred years.

Yesterday (5 May 2014), your new composition for the Berg Orchestra was premiered, one that links up to your II-year-old piece Vzorky z Mesice (Samples from the Moon). I think that it quite clearly revealed how significant it was for you to play the horn with the then Agon Orchestra, which specialised in, among other things, the American post-minimalists and at the time was the home ensemble of the composer Martin Smolka. Where have you advanced since then as a composer in comparison with this background, what did you enterge from? what impact did playing the horn have on you, an instrument that - perhaps it can be said this way - is in more intimate contact with the acoustic reality than many others?

You have discerned quite precisely that Daily Patterns is in a way hindsight. At the time, I embraced minimalism, but in a harsher, more dissonant and energetic form. I played with Agon occasionally and was a great fan of the music they performed at concerts. 'When it comes to the American minimalists, the composers around Bang on a Can or Ian nis Xenakis, I perceived it as a musical buttress in the high performance requirements I seek From musicians. I still cannot forbear this seemingly unnecessary demandingness, since I want to experiment together with the musicians, and I expect them to enjoy it. For years I played the horn in a wind quintet and other ensembles, so I could closely see and hear how individual instruments and their players behave. Inevitably, this experience projects into my compositions; the wind instrument players in particular encounter a host of challenges. As for the brass instruments, I have become especially fond of consistent application of different harmonic series, whereby the players perform entire melodies using a single Fingering. To date, none my compositions has dispensed with this technique, and it is highly unlikely that any future ones will dispense with it either. But back to

the shifts in my musical language. You have made me think about it: I have noticed that I have somewhat softened my sound; I now use fewer aggressive dissonances and I also take greater heed of the technical aspect of compositions. Almost all of my older pieces are at the border or performability and technical feasibility. Today, I am a little bit more pragmatic and strive to write compositions in such a manner that would make it possible for them to be played by someone else besides the instrumentalists I work with at the time. But I can't decide whether this is to their benefit or not...

Another thing that virtually none of your pieces has lacked is some theatrical or visual action. What impels you to it? Do youfeel the necessity to transcend the limitations of "pure" music?


I enjoy actions on the stage, since they make it possible for me to get the listeners into the moment of surprise, which can hardly be provided to them by the music itself. It is a musical extension that can be carried out by the musicians themselves, without actors and theatre. A few examples: a shot from a pistol seen by everyone lifted and poised has a far more powerful acoustic and emotive accent than any drumbeat, as in Probudte se! (Wake Up!). Bedazzling the audience with intense contre-jour light prevents them from noticing the ensemble, who during the time when the music is played in the dark enter unobserved and whose 'sound suddenly emanates from a place different to where you would expect it (Entropic Symphony). Lead cooled down to -200[degrees]C in liquid nitrogen sounds like any other metal, yet when heated up its sound transforms, with its metallic character gradually withering away (Samples from the Moon).. As for the actual manipulation with sound, I use, for instance, static distribution of players or their groups in space so that, owing to their being at a sufficient distance, they begin coming across as, acoustically distinguishable units. Then it is possible to work with an instrumental ensemble in a similar manner to that in a studio with electro-acoustic material - I have a soil of live instrumental stereo (quadraphonic even) sound. In similar groupings, rotations, various movements and spatial sound pulsations are available as a new compositional parameter. 111 employ a motion action, it already usually transcends mere work with the sound. Qui, a piece For solo clarinet, is a kind of ritual, whereby the performer shifts between the individual standpoints, thus "feeling out" the acoustic-space in which he/she moves. In Echolocations For live percusionists, the soloist moves synchronously or in the opposite direction to the spatio-temporarily determined rotation of sounds, which are generated by four statically distributed players. The audience sits geometrically inside the whole process, thus being able to perceive the relationship between the statically generated rotation and the physical messenger of sound - the running soloist.

So we are back again to sound. What about electronic music, does it allure you?

Yes, it does, but rather as a part of a composition for acoustic instruments or voice, where I need different sounds. So Car, I have only pondered a purely' electronic piece marginally. Not long ago, I was urged to create a work of this type by a friend who's really into electronic music. But I think he will have to wait for a while.

On the subject of technology, does the computer help you with composing?


I compose with a pencil, writing on music paper. This, today almost ancient, technique has proved For me to be far the best of all those available. It forces me to write in the cleanest form possible - I can't stand erasing, rewriting, deleting. I have to think more about the chords and time, and then composing is much more interesting than playing back notes in some program. So the computer only helps me indirectly, by means of, for instance, an engraver that uses the computer to create the neat score from my draft, and extracts the parts. In the case of the composition Fokusace (Focusations) for solo percussion, which I wrote for Tomas Ondrusek in the "Xenakis" graphic notation, I long ruminated over whether to write the final score by hand or somehow digitally. It was eventually resolved by means of MS Excel, in which I worked out a simple method of notation of little balls as a formalised type of chart. And MS Excel also helps me with compositions that contain some mathematically expressible structure relating to, say, calculation [degrees]land relations between pitches. It has served well for checking various microtonal transpositions, the development of rhythmic patterns or determining the durations of sections I want to have in certain ratios.

What role is then played by some type of constructivist "preparation" in your compositions? As a listener, I would guess that your pieces have a sort of pre-prepared skeleton which you rather arbitrarily flesh out...

When I start a composition, it is of the utmost importance to clarify two things: what material to use and, above all, what the composition will look like as a whole. By this I mean its proportions, macro-form and inner structure, duration, the feeling it evokes in me or the feeling I want to get close to. As for the selection of the actual material, it involves dusting off old and processing new notes; I need melodies, sounds, chords, rhythms and mathematical structures of varying degrees of sophistication. I draw up a sketch and get down to detailed composing and instrumentation. A large quantity of ideas only enter a composition while I am writing, they simply emerge and grow into the score. Another important role is played by errors, of which I inadvertently make a lot. But. before I erase or correct them, I try to gauge whether they might ultimately sound better than my original conception. Sometimes this is the case and I am enraptured. After all, quite a lot of my material has its origin in slips, out-of-tune playing and all kinds of howling. I only want the musicians to deliver it in a defined form.

If I understand your scientific work correctly, it straddles discovery and invention. When composing, do you sometimes experience thefeeling that ideas - in the widest sense of the word - are basically divided into discoveries and inventions? I know it difficult to define ... But the border between discovery and invention in today's natural sciences too is not entirely clear-cut. or is it?

Not only have I experienced that feeling but, as you describe it, from my viewpoint it is the practical reality of every creation. In science, some connections virtually fall into our lap occasionally, for instance, as a by-product of a seemingly more significant project. We discover new principles, get to know more about how nature works. But we have to approach some problems like engineers from the very beginning. We design and build a functional system, in my case, one made out of atoms and ions. Within this parallel, I could view composition as a sort of gradual inventing and testing out of new musical principles and relations. But I would not get far without minor and greater discoveries, which occur somewhat unexpectedly and, sometimes, almost expectedly. I wouldn't, however, term these discoveries as ideas, they are rather observations that spring up uncertainly - on the basis of observation or simple coincidence. From an unusual colour in the instrumentation or rhythm, which Functions unexpectedly not only in the context of a particular composition but also in the subconscious, up to, say, harmony resulting from unintentional leaning on the keyboard. They mean a lot to me and often serve as the pillar when seeking musical material. On the other hand, discoveries/observations seldom appear out of nowhere, without one having explored something. I think that owing precisely to the increased attention necessary for intercepting them - since they crop up unexpectedly - composing cannot be reduced to its basal technological or associative substance, thus the composer docs not only draw upon his professional experience and basic ideas. Carrying out and including minor discoveries/observations results in composing going beyond the engineering routine, beyond the production of music for a certain Function that is known or given in advance.

What are your plans for your future as a composer and scientist? What have you in store for us?

My scientific future to a great extent depends on what grants I succeed in obtaining this year. Sometimes I am shocked by how similar this is to the sphere of music. Even though my financial security does not depend on my music production., I have found out that the project style of today's culture can markedly influence that which I write. Last year, for instance, I promised a piece for the Moens ensemble, yet its being performed was conditioned on some sort of grant. And the grant was only allotted for this year, hence I will write it in the summer and it will be premiered in the autumn. As regards the plans For the next few years, rm really looking forward to the piano trio commissioned from me by the Dresden-based ensemble Elole Klaviertrio for the Ostrava Days 2015 festival, and I will also be composing an opera for the New Opera Days Ostrava 2016 festival.

Petr Cigler (b. 1978), chemist and composer At the present time, he heads the Synthetic Nanochemistry team at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, within which he researches into new therapeutics and diagnostic methods for medicine. As a horn player, he has premiered numerous pieces Czech and foreign composers and in the previous decade of the 21st century he signyicantly participated in the activities of the Czech.contemporary composed music scene. He is a self-taught composer. Cigler's pieces have been performed at or commissioned for Ostrava Days, the Exposition of New Music, Prague Spring and many other festivals. His composition Probate se! (Wake Up!). was featured on a CD-sampler of the magazine His Voia (4/2007), Entropic Symphony was released on the Ostrava Days 2on festival CD.
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Title Annotation:interview
Author:Bakla, Petr
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:4EXCZ
Date:Apr 1, 2014
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