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The versatility and beauty of sound art MUSICA NOVA 2016 international competition.

Today, sound art is a stylistically diversified discipline that has brought into being new sonic worlds, provided unprecedented possibilities for both traditional, modified and brand-new instruments, advancements in spatial sound projection, as well as new formats and blending with other types of art (sound installations, audio-visual works).

The prize-winners of last year's MUSICA NOVA international competition too have presented all kinds of ways of using technology in sound art. Ireland's James Surgenor, who came first in the category of autonomous art electroacoustic music, is currently studying for a doctorate at Sheffield University. A composer, researcher and programmer, he focuses on the "shaping" of sound, its quality and intriguing spatial projection. His piece Twist and Turn is a brilliant result of merging rational algorithmic approach and sense of beauty, the natural sonic quality and the "twisting and turning" of sound in space in a continuum between noise and tonality. As Surgenor has himself written, a composer of this inclination considers competitions an important platform serving to get within the context and into contact with a network of similarly oriented creators. He works with information in a creative manner, he wants, and needs, to know what is going on in the domain and what is new in technology.

Of a totally different vein is the composer who received first prize in the category of music for acoustic instruments and electronic media. Japan's Kotoka Suzuki has a penchant for philosophy and poetry. She is known for employing a variety of formats in her works, including theatre, audio-vision and sound design. To put it in semiotic terms, she does not create her own "language", yet is interested in specific, unique "speeches". In linkage to the traditional Japanese dialectical aesthetics ("there is no light without shadow"), which permeates the entire style of life, there is no sound without silence: "Silence can remind us to listen. Silence can also articulate presence and beauty within it... when there's silence, it can even enhance all the senses together." Unlike Surgenor, Kotoka perceives technologies as solely serving a purpose. In her opinion, we are still somewhat "obsessed with technologies" (admittedly, this evidently applies to Japan to a far greater degree than to Europe), and hence, she has "turned her back on all that, so as to work with something purer, for instance, paper, which is very simple and familiar, and can produce acoustic beauty." In her composition In Praise of Shadows, inspired by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's 1933 essay, Kotoka also treats silence acoustically and visually. Three performers (the composition was premiered by the Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble) play on various types of acoustically amplified paper instruments of various sizes, with white paper representing a "pure form, accentuated by spot light in total darkness. Moreover, the acoustic and visual presentation is articulated by means of the performers' silent movement and their feezing' between the individual actions".

Another type of creative approach is represented by the Czech composer Eliska Cilkova, the winner of the competition's Czech round, who also received an honorary mention in the live electronics category. She studied composition, yet has over the long term had a passion for sound documentary. Possessing multiple talents (perhaps in part owing to her father, the renowned Czech geologist and philosopher Vaclav Cilek), she also has a degree in phytotechnology, and she is currently studying documentary at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. The intersection of her interests and background has probably given rise to her interest in acoustically documenting the Chernobyl region, the propensity for site-specific projects, and the conviction that authentic audio-recording of spontaneous moments may generate very complex information. In Eliska's own words: "I am interested in transferring site sounds into music compositions". Her concept, akin to sound ecology and radio art, entails natural coupling of real and stylised materials. However, Cilkova's short piece for effected piano, titled Vzyvani (Invocation), performed by Jana Cernohouzova, was of a different, rather ritual, nature, a sort of sonic invocation of a pregnant woman, which reflected the composer's personal experience.

The winner of the honorary mention in the Czech section, the accordionist and composer Jiri Lukes, teaches at the Prague Conservatory. The concert marking the announcement of the competition's results featured his prize-winning piece Elementhis - Metamorphosis, accompanied by a video projection (choreography: Dana Pala, visual component: Michal Hor, dancers: Dasa Horvathova and Dana Pala, cinematography: Tomas Krejca, costumes: Nguyen Ha Thanh Spetlikova), as well as his performance of another award-winning work, Doppelganger, for accordion and electronics, by the Netherlands's Roderik de Man. The two musicians share an interest in expanding the potentialities of instruments and their blending with electronics.

All the prize-winners were asked a question about the sense of competitions and the nature of education. They duly highlighted the importance of finding themselves among other creators and gaining experience with the diverse practice within their respective disciplines. And that is precisely what MUSICA NOVA strives to enhance.

In 2016, Prague hosted the 25th edition of the MUSICA NOVA International Electroacoustic Music Competition

Composers from 21 countries presented 70 works. Between 25 and 27 November 2016, the international jury sat at the Sound Studio of the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. The concert of the laureates and winners of the Czech Ear competition for children and young non-professionals (see CMQ 2/2016) was held on 16 December 2016 at the Alfred ve dvore theatre. Forty-four compositions were presented within the autonomous art electroacoustic music category, which was won by Ireland's James Surgenor with his piece Twist and Turn. Honorary mentions went to the 90-year-old French composer Francis Dhomont and his Phoenix XXI, and to Italy's Antonio Scarcia with Harvest Fields. The other finalists were Canada's Giles Gobeil, Argentina's Mario Mary and the UK's Adam Stanovic.

Twenty-six, mainly young, composers competed in the acoustic instruments/voice/ensemble & electroacoustic media category. First prize went to Japan's Kotoka Suzuki and her piece In Praise of Shadows, while the honorary mentions were awarded to the Netherlands's Roderik de Man for his Doppelganger and the Czech composer Eliska Cilkova for her Vzyvdni (Invocation), who also won the Czech round. The other finalists were the UK's Monty Adkins and Paulina Sundin, Chile's Remmy Canedo, Italy's Giulio Colangelo and Portugal's Joao Pedro Oliveira. Another honorary mention in the Czech round went to Jiri Lukes and his piece Elementhis-Metamorphosis.

In the CZECH EAR competition, which has been associated to MUSICA NOVA since 2014, the winner in the under-14 category was the 13-year-old Jakub Burian, second prize was awarded to the 10-year-old David Princ. The 18-year-old Dan Smejkal clearly won the category of 15 and over.

The competition is held by the Society for Electroacoustic Music of the Czech Republic under the auspices of the Czech Music Council, in collaboration with the Academy of Performing Arts and the Arts Institute, the Theatre Institute and the Institute for Modern Music, with support from the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Municipality of Prague. The compositions have been sent to the European Broadcasting Union.

Streaming audio of the prize-winning works:

by Lenka Dohnalovd
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Title Annotation:czech music competition
Author:Dohnalovd, Lenka
Publication:Czech Music
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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