IANCU DUMITRESCU: Acousmatic Provoker

part 2 of interview

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Leroy: Sergiu Celibidache, why is he so significant for you?
Dumitrescu: Above all, Celibidache is, according to me, one of the greatest intelligences of this century. He is a thinker, a philosopher of unordinary stature, even among professional philosophers...

Celibidache is a master of thought, of the process of thought, certainly in a particular direction, but not as a guideline which is fixed in a succession of more or less arbitrary but logical arguments, written, definite, which are built finally in hundreds of pages appearing organic, connecting a philosophical system... Furthermore, I want to say, unlike so many others, so factitious, only contradicting the preceding corpus [of philosophy], Celibidache is a thinker who follows the process of living thought, a GURU who leads his meditations in an extreme synthesis, and at the same time in a flexible way, fresh, alive... To reach the absolute, and he does not do that as an amateur of philosophy, like so many second-rate thinkers setting themselves up as prophets in a moment of confusion, a-cultural, like our [era].

After having followed in his youth systematic studies of philosophy from Romania and then to Germany, he then approached Zen, and realized a single Socratic synthesis. The phenomenology of Husserl is thus renewed while passing through Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Buddhism, Zen.

Only secondly, Celibidache is a musician, a conductor of genius who applies his motivations of thought to a material as fragile as music. For a guru—excuse me for insisting—there is no separation between life and art. This is the source of the radiant force, the magnetism of Celibidache, my spiritual father. He does not direct. He finds himself in a complicity with the music, personifying a principle, that of the in-depth lived thing. It is a spiritual excursion which he realizes, by means of the music, of the scores, in a world always incipient, an eternal present...


In addition to a sensitivity and a complicity which connects us, my guru and me, his influence is exerted by direct contact with him, with his thought as a system if one can say (because I also come from a family of philosophers and mathematicians whom their generation and their concerns belong closer to Eliade, Ionescu, Cioran). His thinking gave me a system of composition in which phenomenology is assumed to the maximum, causing the success of this music, beyond its declared difficulty.

To summarize this prolix speech, phenomenology becomes with Celibidache a praxis, a spiritual technique which can be fulfilled in various ways. The music occupies a place privileged by its temporal dimension, not by concrete sound. [for more on phenomenology, see the end of the interview in Resonance 6.1. -ed.]

Peyet: Did you know the music of Giacinto Scelsi when you started to compose this so mysterious so particular music?
Dumitrescu: I hardly know his music today, after the discs, the many concerts... Until a very recent date I did not know it. [for more on Scelsi, see the introduction to the interview in Bananafish #12. -ed.]

I often attracted to his music, certainly, but I have also an opposite reaction. He had a great mind.

His experiments, rather meta-musical, are closely related to me. But I feel his limits very strongly... In any case, it is a significant contribution, especially in the sense of opening Occidental music towards Far-Eastern horizons, with significant consequences, in our positivist, rationalist world. It would be perhaps significant to know his spiritual links with Romania. Horatio Radulescu was one of the first to make known the music of Scelsi. He felt preceded by this patriarch of Italy. [Scelsi's scores where published by Editions Salabert, Paris. The artistic director of Salabert in that period, who decided to publish Scelsi's (unknown) scores was also a Romanian composer and brilliant teacher of aesthetics at the Sorbonne named Costin Miereanu. He is also an interesting composer. On the other hand, Editions Salabert, Paris is full of Romanian composers, beginning with Georges Enesco—in which extra-European musical thinking can easily be found in some of his music—and continuing with the oldies goldies generation: Anatol Vieru, Stefan Niculescu, Tiberiu Olah, Aurel Stroe, and other generations too: Costin Cazaban, Lucian Metianu, Costin Miereanu, Cornel Taranu, Mihai Mitrea-Celarianu, and myself. -1999 Avram update]

Georges Enesco

As Latins, but also by its place so close to the East, Romania is related to the Rome so particular of Scelsi and had an intrinsic comprehension of his music. Scelsi is, temporally, halfway between the time of Tibet and that of Europe.

In my music also, sound subtleties, a-temporality, the transcending suspense of the duration of the sound, go still further.

The Scelsi phenomenon and that of the contour of my music are two complementary facets, synchronous, from attraction towards the going beyond the European framework, towards a "planetarisation" of the art of this end of millennium. It is an idea on which the art of Stockhausen insisted, at least during a certain period.

However Scelsi and Stockhausen remain, compared to the sound, in its reality, while I seek to transcend it, towards a reality which transmutes, in a very thorough way, an evolutionary sound, in perpetual movement, with its own life.

In fact things should be explained at greater length.

Peyet: Was Gyorgy Ligeti a significant influence for you?
Dumitrescu: Ligeti? No, he never influenced me, I think... His music is a model of compositional evolution based on combinatory laws, from which I strongly separated myself a long time ago.
[JOSH RONSEN: Do you mean he builds his music part by part to achieve a whole? Or do combinatory laws refer to something else?]

The egomanical Josh Ronsen

[Dumitrescu: I mean both... The musical construct is made by structures (textures is maybe a better word) that are juxtaposing one to another. The morphology is also a structuralist one, going from the classical manner of organizing pitches and rhythms.]

But very recently, I discovered in some writings of Ligeti on music, very brief, only some pages, a spirit of an immense opening, turned towards a "new music." In those pages he has a presentiment of this different music, in which he thinks with a not easily foreseeable and conceivable intuition, without a real contact with this music. These pages are superb... I would like to make you read them!

[Ronsen: What are these writings?]
[Dumitrescu: It is an interview in Romanian (probably translated from German), when Ligeti had a meeting with Niculescu in 1992 in Vienna, and another text from a conference sustained by Ligeti at the occasion of the Balzan Priwe Award in 1991... Very interesting proposals. Published in Muzica Magazine, Bucharest, October-December 1993 / No 4/ 1993.]

But Ligeti was certainly an example among some others (Stockhausen, Xenakis, Boulez...) of courage. They all assumed without hesitating the responsibility for their thoughts, of the thrust of what they wrote. Ligeti is moreover, to a certain extent, Romanian. He was born and lived in Romania, made studies in Cluj-Napoca, and in Bucharest. The Romanian language as much as Hungarian was almost his mother tongue. Thus, he was for me a familiar model. Like Xenakis, a resembling case of citizen of the world, French, Greek, born in Braila in Romania, (just like Bela Bartok, Kurtag, bound by the spirit to Romania, being born and having lived here)...

Peyet: Which composers are recognized among the frames of your musical influences?
Dumitrescu: Stockhausen, at a certain period... a certain tendency in the music of Cage... But all my works, for more than twenty years, have had a self-generated development, came from a spiritual experience which belongs to me, a search in which I "plunged."
Peyet: Do certain musics of Asia, of the Himalayas constitute any influence for you? Ivan Vandor, in his work on ritual Tibetan music, draws attention to the fact that this music comes from Dévas [the gods] and should rather be intended to them than to men. This devotional aspect, is it present in your music, or do you want the listener to perceive the plans that involve Dévas? It should be noted that Scelsi often gave to its works titles borrowed from various mythologies.
Dumitrescu: Of course I listened to music from Tibet, Japan, India... Sometimes with great satisfaction, but not always... My music is really related to the Far East. It "dreams" of the imaginary Far East. Each time, the contact with this remote spirit (that I imagined not only enigmatic but also refined) gave me the emerged dissatisfaction of a lack of refinement, or what I perceived as such, of a slightly rough reality, without aesthetic search. All that I retorted with Orphism, theory and praxis which is very close for me.

Orphism intervened in my aesthetic design under several aspects, giving the highest degree of refinement. Of Orphism and hermeneutic sound it would be necessary to speak more, in relation to aspects which I could only announce here.

[Ronsen: What is Orphism? We know Orpheus (from Ovid) as a musician so skilled that he could charm the god of death. Do you refer to the magical power of music? Is this a personal system, or did you learn it from someone else?]
[Dumitrescu: Oh, this question alone needs an entire book to answer!]

[Yes, the Orphism comes from Orpheus, the Thracian god-artist-shaman who could transcend the human condition by his artistic skills, by his artistic intensity. The Orphics where also a gnostic sect in the early Roman Empire. Celebrating Orpheus as a god, their rituals were impregnated by a particular magic dimension, in connection with death, initiation and resurrection (as a reborn of the initiate).]

[In fact, in Orpheus as well as in Orphism, I found the expression of an absolute form of being in art, a maximalizion of all the parameters of the artistic sound and thought, as a limit impossible to attempt, but as a more than essential reference.]

[More than that: as an artistic technique, it implies, from the start, a setting in a different position for the artist, the composer or performer, from where he can be inside the problem and at the same time (synchronously!) in the exterior. This is a privileged and in the same time an impossible position. This is the unity of contraries! That can be obtained, with an extreme artistic sincerity, in a direct contact with the material and with the absolutely discerning, continuously criticing the passage of each moment of the creative act. That demands a spiritual exercise in fact difficult to obtain. It's an infinite adventure. It approaches art between life and death. It maximalizes all the categories.]

[Because in fact what can we see? Great artists who can incite the infernal forces but don't know what to do with them. In the case of the composer; concretely, marvelous sounds in themselves, but which never become a composition, because their author doesn't know how to use them. Therefore this particular point, which can give us enormous revelations, is a mystical secret - mystic meaning something absolutely real, unavoidable.]

[Thus, the artist is living with the greatest intensity his artistic act, almost until blindness, and at the same time he keeps an exceptional form of illumination, a rational, criticial lucidity I mean. This is in fact a supreme fusion between the knowing subject and the object to be known. Why is this attitude so difficult to obtain? Because it needs an inalienable faith, which I find normal to call mystic. An absolute consistency, un-criticial this time. Its deficiency crumbles everything. Let's come back to the Orphic myth: Orpheus manages to arrive at the bottom of the world, in Hell, to get Euridice. He obtains her. Only a last exigency: He cannot doubt! Attention: the truth is undoubted, unity of opposites, without any shadow of doubt. That means the knowledge sui-generis of the indivisibles. But Orpheus doubts. In his doubt he dissociates once again: is that truth or not? and looses everything. The most elementary hermeneutics shows us that the setting in the position I spoke must not be disturbed, to get the result.]

[I will repeat again: "I hope that, in that way, with this attitude when making music, by the means of the sound, you can dissect the nucleus of the world."]

Peyet: Does an idea-force, a devotional intention guide you during the composition of a work and thus perhaps in the choice of a title? Why are certain pieces classified by Greek letters, those being always Alpha, Gamma and Epsilon, such a numeration giving the impression which your compositions transmit some unknown mythology?
Dumitrescu: One always finds a load-bearing idea, a meaningful presentiment, a meaningful intuition... They develop in the spirit, they germinate inside, obscurely, then they are clarified, intensified... Finally one proclaims them, they are noted, one can transmit them. They become objective. They become sometimes - to answer the latter question - families of compositions, classes of compositions which claim more or less the same meaningful ideas. I employ the enumeration Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon, like an enumerative option of the Ancient Greeks, by regionalism also, if you want, as descendant of Thrace, fraternal people and root of the Greeks.
Peyet: Does the word Movemur have for you a particular emotional weight, for your imagination for example?
Dumitrescu: MOVEMUR comes from Latin - another ascending - "Movemur et sumus" means "to be driven and to exist." It is a call for the evolution of ideas, away from stagnation, freedom of the spirit, towards the perpetual adaptability and redefinition. "Movemur et sumus" is a kind of secret message towards new forms of sound. You really seized the call to this message (we will exist moving). I still had the privilege to study Latin at the College, according to the old pre-war programs, like a former mother tongue, which for the following generations was not the case any more.
Peyet: Concerning the sensation of pitch: do you attach importance so that the sensation of a pitch is that of an explicit pitch: an F for example? Do you hope that one can perceive the different spectral lines, the different partials or groups of spectral lines "in the air," i.e. independently of all pitch relations, knowing that the perception of pitch relations imply an analysis by the inner ear and the psyche, or do you conceive them like some sound "in the air," to perceive and perceived, feel for themselves, in a table of spectral themes of which the relation is not visible?
Dumitrescu: In any case, it does not act more than one simple feeling of pitch when we perceive a musical sound in a composition. The sound here is transcended, directed, with a semantic energy. It thus does not refer to the purely sensory.

Obviously I work with precise sounds, as in any traditional composition. A composition employing multiphonics on the clarinet, for example, requires a specific notation, indicating the basic sound, the fingering, the pressure of the breath and the mouth, the effect... In fact, concrete, technical things belong to the alphabet of the scoring, that almost any instrumentalist having finished the studies of the academy - be he a flutist, trombonist etc. - must know. The writing is concrete, academic if you want. It is true that finally, they are not so simple to reach, to obtain, being fragile even (the practice of the instrumentalist also accounts for much). There is also an interpretable aspect....

This is all! The large drum, the tam-tam, always has some unspecified pitch, but here other acoustic laws play which aren't very known to those who miss the practice of work with the instrument, and these laws create the effect by which these same untunable instruments enter, of a completely natural manner, in resonance, and in the totality of work (be it tonal or built on micro-scales or in sonorous fascicles), they make a common body with the whole, without discordance.

In the case of my music, they are harmonic sounds of various sources, multiphonics, micro intervals, faisceaux sound, clusters, agglomerations of clusters (of the given spectra and which, with untunable instruments, create interference spectra), micromodes (modes of microtones), interferences of micromodes... All the sensations "in the air," independently of any relation, are obviously felt for themselves, like a transcendent underline, between life and non-life, in a nirvanic zone where one meets a pure migration of the spirit. It is the zone of pure freedom, where any terrestrial attraction is canceled.

At the same time, even the temporal determinism disappears. An interstellar space, without gravitation, like a projection of the soul towards the divine.

What good is the field of the spectrum if it is not for similar voyages where the fundamental sound, where the first harmonics (which could reconstitute the matrix) are almost lost, in favor of a suspended WAVE, which travels like the projection of a yogi? All that, they are things obtained with difficulty, not randomly, but with a concentration of the yoga type, by phenomenology, the elimination of any ballast, any vulgarity, etc, while being emptied as in Zen, a pure creative vacuum and new sound images.

Each time that this concentration does not make a success of me, the result is poor. It works like the pure intuition (Husserl) which to simplify, for quick comprehension, is equivalent to the Zen technique.

Peyet: Would you want to have one cease to listen to the double bass and the other instruments to listen to only the music itself, listen to an acousmatic instrumental music, or that having given up listening to the instruments one listens to the sound released of all instrumental reference? Can one hear all the sound details of your music at the time of a concert?
Dumitrescu: During a public concert, when the ensemble of musicians manages to transcend, all impediments are exceeded. Interpretation then reaches, by a good proportionality, by an ideal relationship between the parts, between the detail and the macrostructure, the profound sense of the work. This profound sense, if it exists, is one, indivisible! It is like a predestination, absolute, inalterable... without alternatives!

For me, art has value only for that, uniquely, because by this means you can transcend raw reality, the primary materiality. In this state of supreme freedom, but also of flexible concentration, you are or you are not! Without intermediate phases! Thus, in the moment when, on stage, the artists manage to transcend, the listener also plunges in a similar state of concentration, being in a contact not maligned, not interceded with the whole work. You pose the question if you will hear or not... details? You will hear all, or completely nothing!

Moreover... such a music, without details, would be a true horror! When the means of hearing, the discs, and even CD's are poor... nothing is more horrifying! To be able to follow these recordings, it would be necessary to have the entire spectrum of a completely open signal, with an optimal correction of high and low registers. Any lack is fatal! God is rented, at least at the time of a concert, if there is at least an acoustic minimum of quality, the result is incomparably better!

Peyet: But how can you know that a gong will produce such cohesion of spectral lines when part of the sound spectrum which it emits combines, exactly joins certain sounds played by the double bass... What is on the score for the double bass?
Dumitrescu: Very concretely: the gong, apart from its fundamental sound, which is a privileged sound, has a multitude of other components and adjacent fundamentals, which form a family. The double bass is a true factory of fundamentals, with many harmonics.

When it is a question of carrying out harmonic sounds between the two instruments, like you say, these harmonics do not become discordant, because they produce a sort of harmony of partials. Thus, the ninth harmonic of a spectrum can be found like the seventh harmonic of another, or like the third of a different fundamental. Obviously, their characters are, if you want, different. But they are possibilities, interlacings with the apparent direction, full of combinative possibilities! Exactly as in harmony, traditional, tonal harmony. Very few people realize, that in fact, it is a new functionality, in the spectral domain. But the relation gong-double bass, or more generally, unpitched instrument - pitched instrument is one which respects the traditional principle of utilization.

Peyet: Medium III is one of the works most characteristic of your musical esthetics. It poses the question: What do you write on your scores?
Dumitrescu: Medium III is a score (a music) which is based, if you want, on a process of feedback. A perpetual response to the energization of the instrument. A total adventure by means of the sound, based on a request of the performer and a continual response of the instrument. Medium III is thus a provocation. A provocation of acoustics, to the verification of possible limits, a provocation of the instrument itself... A provocation of the spirit, therefore of the instrumentalist, but in transcendental situations. As in Zen, you see, I always return there, it is a prolonged concentration on a fixed point. Here it is about the concentration, for long temporal periods, on a unique sound (fundamental), generated by the free strings. The free strings are forced, by various bow techniques to emit sounds, colors, most unexpected "electronic" effects. It is a setting under a magnifying glass, under a microscope, like a miraculous contemplation of a microcosmos...

I want to underline this inciting, creative aspect of sound feedback. We have a new type of performance technique, a new manner of performing. The first sound created by the performer becomes creative incentive, continues, for feedback sequences.

That's to say, he provokes his instrument (by change of bow position, pressure, speed, accent, etc...) and the instrument answers with a unprecedented sonority, which becomes a new deadlock, a new provocation, for another sequence... The music generates itself, in a present eternal continuum, without any artifice of arbitrary construction.

Peyet: What is the part of the performer, his freedom in the creation of the sounds? What freedoms do you give him?
Dumitrescu: The performer does not have any freedom!

The appearance is that of an enormous freedom. Some can imagine that it would be improvisation in the most banal sense of the term. This is not the case. On the other hand, the instrumentalist is related to the physical laws of his instrument. He enters in vibration, comes out of the vibration, glides on the surface of the string, brushing the harmonics "sul ponticello" [on the bridge] in a manner that only an authentic initiation in the secrets of bowing can realize. Whoever does not have it, does not make a success of anything! Absolutely nothing!

Only if you at least raised these instrumental questions, which are cardinal for any music, can you have an access here. Thus for that, there is no freedom: because a true science is necessary! Afterwards, just like for the classics, one becomes free while playing Bach, that is a different thing.

To tell the truth, it is that, the sense of freedom. But you obtain it at the time when the questions of decision, of material precision, were taken. In any case, there are few alternatives. It can be a question only of a high possession of freedom, and that, only at the moment when the "details" were entirely decided. It is a high degree of control... When it is reached, things find other explanations.

One should not forget, for [Medium III], the magnificent result of Fernando Grillo, the "Buddha of the double bass" as Stockhausen called him. He introduces his interpretation, the literal meaning of the excursion, of the adventure in a dialogue with himself. Fernando Grillo is, from this point of view, a high artistic authority. He clarifies the ideas with the heat of his formidable talent. Confrontations with such landmarks have always a emblematic value.
Fernando Grillo

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