In Resonance with Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana–Maria Avram

part 2 of interview

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Dumitrescu: If one also calls upon phenomenology, music is related to sound... the sound is something having in its structure a "scale," if one can say like that, (but it is not like that!) which has a "spectrum," which has the principle of the octave, and that does not exist in any other art.

And the octave repeats, and that occurs over the nine or ten octaves we can hear [20Hz to about 20,000Hz -ed.]. The field is rather large... That goes from subsonics to ultrasounds. On the other hand, the field of vision goes from the infra-red to the ultraviolet ray [430 THz to 750 THz -ed.]. It is very short.

Peyet: In the visual field, one perceives one octave [not even an "octave," if we mean an octave to be a doubling of a frequency; see frequency range above. -ed.]. The spectrum of the colors does not start again after the ultraviolet ray, or below the infra-red.
Dumitrescu: And because of that one can have an incredible richness in music, in comparison with other arts, because one calls upon a capacity of hearing which is completely special.
Peyet: What hearing perceives, which we feel by the means of hearing presents at the same time an identity, a similarity rather, with the same phenomenon with another octave and at the same time, is offered a set of differences. There is thus an ambiguity perhaps being born from that... It is the same thing, but it is nevertheless not the same thing, and listening is perhaps always done, concerning the pitches for example, by a friction around the point of ideal consonance.
Dumitrescu: It is splendid!
Peyet: When I discovered an American composer whom perhaps you know, La Monte Young, I realized at what point it is important to listen to only one sound. I thus tried to remake some of his experiments. It is fascinating! The sound becomes a spiral where one progresses more and more deeply.
Avram: Yes, one can make music starting from only the resonance of a sound. Scelsi already imagined that.
Peyet: [frightened by his own find]: Work with much auditive analysis can be very methodical, but one realizes that there exists a very large number of possible arrangements that one hears in the sounds, which Young names by their combined frequencies, and one can form relations of generating frequencies to explore the numerators of the frequency ratios [i.e. expressing the interval of a fifth by 3/2 -ed.], the quality (to use the term employed by Alain Danielou) of the sound spectrum, or rather if one was only interested in a portion of this, that I name the octaviant field.

There is a arborescent, exponential combinatory, and very quickly one realizes that one cannot master all that. There is an infinity of connected possibilities between the frequencies in interrelations between the sounds, and that, which is even more puzzling, whatever the descriptive model of the sounds, or the chosen organizing model to account for the relations between the frequencies, not to speak about those, isolating those from the other important partials in the sounds. That can be frightening sometimes!

Avram: It is for that which the composers think that they can be clutched with something in the moment when they oblige a route, starting from an idea, be it mathematical, especially when the obligation of a grammar no longer exists.
Dumitrescu: [pensive] It is frightening that!
Peyet: But there is no unique path....
Dumitrescu: You utilized ONE sound like La Monte Young, I do not know what, to imagine, to listen to, to widen your... spirituality, your capacity to hear, it is this, no? But one can concentrate... towards something and discover... a world. It is a spiritual exercise, of course. One can thus travel in completely magical, unknown spaces. For me, that is very important.
Peyet: That there was not ONE model, objective, final... description of the sounds. Everyone can invent their own.
Dumitrescu: But the Essence? Where is the Essence?
Peyet: ...and there is an infinity of possible models, but no physical model can account for the whole. One can have diagrams of description, but they are related to a person, a group, a culture. But there is not a total objective model which makes it possible to describe and to organize the sounds. It is not possible.
Dumitrescu: Good, an "infinity of models," but we are always confronted with the same problems: symmetry-asymmetry, of opened forms, the closed forms; even and odd rhythms; horizontal dimension prevailing on the vertical or conversely, etc... For that, I evoke Zen, because Zen represents for me more than what is known and accepted in Western culture. I use the word "accepted," but in fact it would be necessary to say "lived," assimilated...

It was rather a long time ago that I had by chance to read some descriptive texts, which introduced me into the doctrines... For a certain time, I even had a "Master," but now I can develop my own Zen experience. An aside: what I find most remarkable with predilection, it is even that Zen remains open for a personal experience, even if not always mystical.

Avram: It is perhaps necessary to repeat, Zen is not a philosophy, not even a thought... It does not start from certain premises, to arrive at conclusions. Deduction is completely estranged and against it...
Ana-Maria Avram
Dumitrescu: By Zen one succeeds to suspend, to stop, to block the thought, establishing the absolute mental vacuum. Zen is that! The practice to obtain the mental vacuum, like the most precious knowledge...

But if for the Japanese the vacuum, the escape from reality is the goal even, for me, as an European this emptied space of consciousness becomes the place of election where new elements can germinate. A pure state, a regression towards unheard, extraordinary sounds... not yet elaborate... It is in this way that I imagine... that I compose music.

Avram: Because the music is, in a certain sense, Zen. One can only reach there, one can only be the receptor, even, only in himself "empty" of all that will be contingent in him. One cannot listen, comprehend two musics at the same time...
Dumitrescu: Therefore to be able to listen to Stockhausen, "Zyklus" for example, it is necessary to eliminate "Gruppen" from one's conscience. Something remains, inevitably, in the memory... but the music, it is not memory! When one listens or when music is made, one is dependent of a strange link, in a permanence of the present. The music always occurs in the present!

Thus, with Zen I find spontaneity, unforeseen so necessary for the music of today. In order to discover something original, I call upon this state, this transcendental technique, which enables me to eliminate any impurity, any falsity, and to concentrate on a new evidence.That is why I say the music is something pure... Without recourse to a program, to a concept: romanticism, impressionism, etc.

Avram: All these external things are false! Because all takes us toward a duality. Because a duality is an oscillation, a hesitation between two solutions... doubt. And yet, one can make nothing in doubt... duplicity never leads to anything...
Dumitrescu: For that I say that I do not seek the music... I find it! Because I cannot have doubts! When I have them, I am on a false path, on uncertain terrain. As I move towards the immaculate, in music, and as there is no duality—I hope we agree on that—there cannot be the pure and impure at the same time, for the simple reason that I have only one conscience! With it, I cannot perceive two truths! I cannot say, for example, that there, it is a cluster, and at the same time as it is a unison with the violin! My conscience possesses a unit... But, I return, Zen is the worship of the ONE. Of Unity. Of the indivisible.
Peyet: It is not too intolerant?
Dumitrescu: Yes and no! As my conscience cannot perceive two truths, that is intolerant...
Peyet: Is there possible consensus then?
Dumitrescu: Precisely! It is here that one must go. It is the objective state which one can reach: it is a question of reaching, each one among us, "pure consciousness," philosophically speaking. Eliminating any duality in us, while emptying, drawing aside all the ear-phenomena and prejudices, remaining with a virginal conscience, we can arrive at the pure conscience, or fall from agreement. If there is an objective truth, one will certainly find it as such. That is imperatively essential. Therefore it is not intolerant.
Avram: And this truth cannot be modeled. Because to tell the truth, one counters the models which reduce...
Dumitrescu: No, because the music, it is not something solid, material, that one can touch, the music is a material between people, if one can say, or between you and your loudspeakers which emit something and provokes you to express... to transcend, to imagine, provokes you towards a concentration... a psychophysical and mental experience in a special way, as in Yoga for example. No, there is no model in the music. There is not something which one can take in our hands like that and say: Here is music. That is the music. "Here is a model?"
Avram: It is a message, but it is not a message which one can describe... in the basic sense of a description as the romantics imagine... There are grammars which organize the sound, but it is not with them one arrives at the music...
Peyet: I am not sure that an absolute universal grammar exists to organize the sounds.
Avram: No, it certainly does not exist.
Peyet: One starts to realize it even in the sciences, all the mathematical models of the material, for example, are only models, one speaks about standard theory while being conscious of its provisional nature, but none corresponds to the true organization... they are approaches.
Avram: Yes, because finally, one starts from an impression, an idea that one does oneself, of a design, of a design on the material and then one can...
Dumitrescu: ...model mentally. I express that in the form of a question, paraphrasing a Zen Master: "do the mountains have a true form?" I come from there to say that the mountains do not have a form.
Avram: Yes... There is no model. One can model all... And thus to reduce, to minimize all... and to move away from the truth by love of exactitude...

Music, on the other hand, is a field where the models, the theories do not see, do not mean... the mind discovers things never reached, but it is always in its material, not elsewhere... For that I make music. The mind of a composer enriches the domain of reality... and for this demiurgic invention he desperately makes music.

Peyet: One can make very complicated calculations to approach the shape of the mountains, that will be never a true mountain.
Avram: That will be perhaps an exact mountain, and not a true mountain.
Peyet: And in music, it is similar, the sound which one hears, or the music does not have form, it does not have a true form.
Avram: Yes, and then later... people try to approach an ideal form, but I believe that people have thought subsequently on the form... have found certain forms from certain composers but I do not think that the creative truth of these forms are truly realized.

For example, Haydn, who created the "sonata form," did not imagine the way in which those who came after him would use the sonata. He wanted quite simply to make a particular form of discourse, another form of discourse than those which existed before him.

Dumitrescu: It was something necessary to him...
Avram: Yes, but his need was different.
Dumitrescu: Fundamentally.
Avram: Different from that of his ancestors, Bach, all of them. But in fact I do not think that he started by theorizing the duality between the two themes, the development, the re-exposition of the themes in a new relation, all that people, after having read Hegel, imagined to be able to find in the sonata form.

And, at the opposite, Webern who saw "themes" in the different forms of the series that he employed in his compositions... while he composed a completely new music, answering all other formal principles...

Today there is no professor who would explain to his pupils the music of Webern from the point of view of the sonata form... There are, of course, according the epochs, the cultures, of the specific "horizons" of the style, which are found, resembling, in the various fields... Who draws their "truths" in the unconscious collective, but beyond that, what draws one to speak on the "forms?"

Peyet: But to reconsider the question of models, concerning timbre, in the description that remained until the 1950s with a model established towards the end of the 19th Century on the theories of Fourier... of Helmholtz.
Avram: One cannot explain the timbres.
Peyet: Then the search has taken again, for example at IRCAM with computers, to make a more thorough analysis, and one saw that timbre depends on not so much of these successions of harmonics, but rather that it was necessary take in account in the sound, in the sounds, as well as displaying work of Jean-Claude Risset for example, this that is transitory... and in fact, there is nothing, in any model which permits us to see the timbre.
Avram: Absolutely.
Peyet: It is uniquely related to sensation. Mathematically that does not exist. One cannot find it.
Avram: Yes. One can find components which form the higher partials. One can know what forms the higher partials, but one cannot find the rule... Fortunately.
Peyet: Fortunately!
Avram: Sensation is what is important, in this case, but this is not the music. Not any longer. One does not seek it for itself, but for the need to communicate something, the means of this sensation and not the sensation itself. One transcends the feeling to arrive at the "sense."
Peyet: Perhaps are there two approaches of the music, arts in general or oneself in general.

There is an approach which is done by models, this is of the sciences, perfecting models more and more, and an approach which seeks of the immediate then and there, as in Zen, the direct sensation, direct knowledge, which is not the mental knowledge of rational intellect, and without being supposed at all to be neglected this one, and then one tries to transmit this feeling, or more exactly the means than of others have access directly to the same knowledge, to transmit the possibility of this feeling, this knowledge and one tries to present it, but not by models, but by metaphors, sentences sometimes voluntarily absurd or seeming such. They are two antagonistic reasonings, but perhaps not as much as that, and I believe that they are present in all the creative activities, that it is in art, philosophy, in the sciences. Either one seeks instant consciousness, or one perfects a model, one approaches more and more... indefinitely...

Avram: But one is never in the truth.
Peyet: But I fear that with the method of the models one is not, one never knows intimately the thing.
Avram: One goes around the edges, but... But one is never inside...
Ana-Maria Avram
Peyet: The model in fact permits one to comprehend other models more and more, to refine the models, because they are answered, and these conversations of models bring a number of significant questions but it is not the direct experience of the thing, and one can ask if the scientists are not either people who have or would have initially had the intuition of the thing and would have then tried to express it.
Avram: But it is known! One knows it is that! Because any experience... means that one experimented, that one seeks to try out something on an idea that one has, on an intuition that one has, because one can experience anything, to find all by the experience starting from an idea. The idea is always of primary importance, the intuition. And then afterwards, what would be the manner to be able to learn something? To make progress in this domain? There is one of them, all the same.
Dumitrescu: It is there that the analysis intervenes, and as one makes diagrams, one discovers the (or some) diagrams. Don't get me wrong, finally one simplifies.
Avram: It is not said that they are not beneficial and do not have their value; they have it, but with the condition of not making them absolute, to consider that they are essential and absolute... The "essence," the "being" of things cannot be modeled...
Dumitrescu: The French, it is true, are a little... too Cartesian, if you agree... The young French composers made spectral analyses and calculations to see what is the "twenty-third" harmonic... for example...
Avram: They modeled the spectrum...
Dumitrescu: Thus they made the spectral analysis, I vulgarize when I say like that, "the twenty-third harmonic" or "eighty-fourth" or I do not know what. But finally, when they compose, they compose with a real sound, therefore what means the "eighty-fourth" harmonic? It is perhaps... arbitrary.
Avram: It is the octave X for the oboe which, it, did not start from a audible fundamental, existing on the instrument.
Dumitrescu: G sharp perhaps, a little higher or a little lower...
Avram: But it is idiotic, and there one is completely out of tune, because as the truth is never perfect, the falseness even less so. Here it is necessary to be very clear. For example they say: "I have a fundamental at such position" and they will play a real sound, a note, and never the real harmonic of this fundamental. But the performer, the oboist for example, does not have this fundamental in his spectrum, therefore the first sound which has nothing to do with this fundamental and it is perhaps much higher.
Peyet: It is perhaps not tuned exactly on it, on the location of this fundamental like a low C of some bass octave that can be made starting from two different instruments.
Dumitrescu: Obviously, it is almost impossible.
Avram: He cannot exactly play this harmonic because that is linked to this fundamental, he can only mimic this sound.
Dumitrescu: But all the same if one discusses the very high harmonics, they are almost not audible, one can only imagine them.
Peyet: But if one makes him play the "eighty-first" harmonic of the lowest note by dividing it back by octaves to a lower [playable] register?
Avram: Yes, or another harmonic which finally comes closer by some subterfuge of what one wants, finally, by a certain position of tongue, the lips, so that it sounds slightly out of tune, as if it is the "eighty-first" harmonic, but this "as if it is" hasn't any value...
Dumitrescu: It is very relative...
Avram: Very relative, yes, because if the instrumentalist has a problem with his lip, he will play a little higher, and that will have nothing to do with the spectrum one wants.
Dumitrescu: Where is the arbitration? The music is conceived on a reference system. The tuning is always a problem of reference to something: one can intone "false" with respect to something and "less false" with respect to something else. The intonation is not given once for all times: it is a continuous correction of errors. A manner of placing itself, always, at the right place.

When one designs the composition like a "papier musik," without any idea. The clarinet, to give an example, has no true sound, as one could believe it, on the instrument. Like the piano. The clarinetist is the one who places his sounds (more or less well, according to his technique, his ear) by the pressure, the squeezing of the reed, the different positions, as the sense of the music requires it... not to mention the brass, the strings also...

The music is not done in a sterile laboratory! If so, all is lost from the artistic point of view! It is, probably, rather difficult to carry out this "referential" aspect of the music. But it is essential.

If, to make an aside, one would explain to somebody that the CD is full of errors, but the disk player corrects most of them, rendering them inaudible to our senses, which would you believe? However, it is absolutely true!

In a score of "spectral music," usually the music is written with real sounds, but which are calculated, which are interpreted... pre-interpreted... like harmonics. But, after all, they play especially with real sounds "a little false" in the best of the cases...

Avram: Besides, they do not even put the fingerings that would be necessary to obtain these sounds. And that, it is not... professional, because if you want this sound, it is necessary to specify the real fingerings for these sounds. For these composers it is not their business, but that of the instrumentalist... but if it is not their business, they are playing with things without controlling them. Or one should note the spectra as it is necessary, the fingerings for the multiphonics for the false sounds, because there are certain precise fingerings, that it is necessary to mark, if not, if one does not imagine really those sonorities, it is necessary to use the real sounds, it is all! In that way, it is not a real spectral music. But perhaps one simply wants to be different from those which use tempered sounds. But why? How?
Dumitrescu: For classical music, one exploits very clear positions, very precise, which give a tempered approximation of intonation...
Avram: Like the sounds of the piano, not quite, but...
Dumitrescu: Almost tempered. For the flute, the clarinet, for the oboe, the bassoon, for example, there exists other positions also, which are a little...
Avram: ...out of tune... which means that they are finally different harmonics from other fundamentals.
Dumitrescu: Then the spectrum becomes almost confused, for example the spectrum of C, a fundamental C, combines nevertheless with a spectrum of G... In fact, the sounds are almost similar, but are nevertheless really and noticeably different.
Avram: There are microtones.
Dumitrescu: Very sensitive and different, the identifiable microtones to listening. Because, the very high harmonics, on the space scale, are minutely spaced, are agglomerated and at the same time, have close relations to each other! A little confused.

Because of this, a "modulation" of spectra becomes possible. If it is counted that each harmonic has, in the spectrum a particular function, one can reduce and approximate, at the time of the passage to a different spectrum, two harmonics having comparable pitches. Thus, one can consider a modulation within the framework of the spectrum, process which would resemble the enharmony of classical music; principle besides rather largely used in this spectral music. Me, for example, I use much of the upper harmonics...

I never heard anybody speak about the modulation between spectra! Even if there would be others who employ it, they do it without being conscious of the fact! Thus imagine (to improvise) an equivalence which is created between twenty-fifth harmonic of a spectrum and the thirty-second of another. In this manner, sonorities find in a PAN-consonance, no matter what, in fact, concretely, they sound squeaked, tended.

For that, when you ask about the violin sometimes sounding like an unspecified harmonic of the tam-tam, that is made explicit by this phenomenon of PAN-consonance, by the reduction, the equivalence by the ear, of the functionality of the sounds in different spectra.

I can thus travel from one spectrum to the other... Nobody ever seized that...

Avram: And if one truly wants to make a spectral music that is not dogmatic, because a musician plays with the harmonics... And when a musician is inside a spectrum, one really feels something out of tune. We have antennae, in our being, to recognize very easily, to feel that this is false when it is. We are certainly capable to reduce, in the phenomenological sense, to find similarities, but in certain limits. It is different enough from what occurs in the case of a series: a series (of twelve sounds) cannot be reduced, nor recognized to listening. A spectrum, yes.
Dumitrescu: For that matter we have, for example, even today, clarinet in B flat, clarinet in A, clarinet in E flat which are tuned to fundamental tonalities, and if one is in the key of D Major, one has possibility to make with clarinet in A or a D of the higher partials, which is different from those played on another clarinet, in B flat for example.

It is a banal way of saying that it depends on the scale of the music.

Where is the falsity? From where does it come? Of this that these composers write a supposedly spectral music with real sounds, starting from calculations which they make on the spectrum.

Avram: They apply principles suitable for structuralist music, serial or other, with the spectral domain which is "given" and not "fabricated."

One could say, from Heidegger, "es gibt das spectrum!" [the spectrum is given]

Why do we have to use those ideas, but real sounds, you see? And that, it is to you a question of art, which worries us, it is our problem, because for us there is a fundamental problem from it.

Dumitrescu: This is a spectral thought. It is thought before being a composition. Because from our premises the concretization of the score is done with very defined notes which are harmonics and multiphonics, always noted as such, and not with the real sounds having the function of harmonics.

Well, in a certain sense, a music of harmonics is even that of Mozart, because the tonality is an extension, a historical rationalization, a phenomenological reduction of acoustics and thus of the spectrum. All the chords come from the natural resonance, no?

Avram: More or less. It is adjusted. It is obvious that the tonality has natural bases, but what makes the difference, it is the rationalization, therefore the "falsification" of the spectrum.
Dumitrescu: Obviously.

To return: in scores like those of Tristan Murail, which I like much, and which fascinate me by their complexity, it is a widening of the dodecaphonic concept that, in my opinion, very concrete, obviously with microtones, but...

Avram: Microtones, but which are still different from the naturality of the spectrum, if not theoretically, but there, one can make a speech with a whole theory explaining why it is written with the oboe or the clarinet G sharp a little higher with a sign like that, but without any reference to "how to obtain it."
Dumitrescu: Because it is the "eighty-second" harmonic of B flat (of course, we are improvising)...
Avram: And the poor oboist, he will play a real sound. He will try to approximate, in his manner, the sign, but he will play a real sound.
Dumitrescu: He tries... but does not succeed, because he cannot be aware of the fundamental necessary to obtain the true sound requested, and which sometimes is not even on his instrument.
Avram: It is necessary that he plays a little higher, but how much higher? How much lower? Because one cannot report to a fundamental sound in a music which, in fact, does not have any center.

Therefore to return before the aside, it is that fundamental sound which the oboe will never have, because its highest sound is B under middle C. But he will never be able to play G sharp as if it were the "eleventh" or I do not know which other harmonic, "thirteenth" of a fundamental that his instrument does not have...

And to return to what Iancu Dumitrescu said... I would like to recall that even in a traditional symphony, a full orchestra can have problems of intonation... What to do then with a completely new music?

Dumitrescu: Because it is necessary to say there is a richness of notes, sounds... infinite! I have the impression that one speaks without entirely knowing reality. In this domain it is only the "praxis" [action] which counts.

As I note that you like to theorize, I would like simply to ask you: how do you think that 16 first violins, 14 second violins, 10 violas, 10 violoncellos and 8 double basses can play various microtones, divisi [scored separately], in measurement and tempo, with a minimum of control of their intonations? Do you think that it is possible in a similar case to control, to correct the intonation? When one does not hear oneself, or his neighbor? And if, moreover, there is the thunder of percussion and the chaos of the brass? Dear friends, it is much more complicated than you believe!

I would be reassured if the theories could work instead of the sound reality.

The means of thinking are quite as vast as the sound space. The essential is to be able to organize in practice this space, infinite!

And how to correct the intonations, as it is the case in a remarkable work, like "Disintegrations" by Murail, where the musicians must "struggle" with a four track electro-acoustic tape, overloaded and with non-tempered (but not for that matter spectral) sounds which poses enormous problems of synchronization, and which confuses you permanently? The conductor, who directs with headphones where there is the tape, and the beeps of synchronization, can he control? In real time, what are the musicians playing? Is he a superman?

My friends, art gives provocations much more dramatic than simple assertions...

To return: it is a richness of the instruments, they are thousands of sounds to organize... There is the great difficulty, which really requires a truly "pure" intuition!

But, to continue on the authentic basis of the acoustic process, it should be known that the instruments do not always emphasize exactly the same multiphonics each time under acoustic conditions which differ. Even with three bass clarinets having the same manufacturer, there exists the possibility of difference. One does not have the right to ignore that. The same thing with the trombone, the horn, the trumpet... The embouchure can sometimes cause insurmountable difficulties. In a room with a certain acoustic richness, their effort is lessened. On the contrary, in a very dry place, that can become a catastrophe! Even the place, the site on stage counts! If you do not take into account these givens, you are null! Scribblings on paper, the world is full of them, as it is full with any kind of aberrations. Name me a composer who has the least idea in the way in which one can mix, of associating multiphonics, harmonic sounds, microtones in an orchestra? An orchestra with its so noble instruments, so marvelous, but, therefore, at such point imponderable...

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