Patricia Alessandrini about "Mismoded"
Most of my recent works are reactions to existing works from the common-practice repertoire, and engage issues of representation, interpretation, and memory. I had originally thought to engage with the music of Carl Nielsen, and in my research about his music, accidentally came upon the music of Rued Langgaard, much of which was performed for the first time only after his death. Among these astounding and eclectic works is his opera Antikrist, which he completely re-composed and resubmitted after it was refused by the Danish Royal Theatre in 1923 due to its subject matter, only to have it rejected a second time for the same reason.
My reaction to the work in this case was to take a small part of the music and text of the opera and interpret it almost purely as sonic phenomena, detached from the original meaning of the text. In terms of the musical content, the focus is no longer upon the harmonies or melodies but rather on the physical production of each sound constituting them. All three instruments, including the voice, are subjected to unidiomatic approaches which problematize their articulation: the soprano employs techniques involving noise, only rarely bringing into play her full, optimized voice; the percussionist uses preparation on instruments which both interfere with their vibration and introduce noise; and the guitarist blocks certain strings and plays much of the piece with a bow, a difficult and somewhat awkward technique for the guitar. The material of the original is thus extremely filtered and fragmented by these techniques.
Most of the text has been “homophonically translated” by poet and author Anthony Alessandrini. Without understanding the meaning of Langgaard’s original Danish text or reading a translation of it, he found sonic equivalents for it in English, thereby constructing a new text out of the sound rather than the meaning of the original.
Through the use of the live analysis and digital sound processing, the text retrieves its original meaning through its corporalization as sonic phenomena: when a sung word from the homophonic translation sonically resembles a pre-recorded sung word of the original, the original may be heard in the electronics. The text is submitted to a destructive translation process somewhat analogous to submitting a text to an automated translation and then auto-translating it back to the original to produce a corrupted version; in this case, however, the retention of meaning depends not on the accuracy of the translation but rather on the sonic similarity of both the homophonic translation and of its embodied version, its execution by the soprano. The video projection will illustrate this process by representing the soprano’s physical production of the sound corresponding to the original text.
If a “mode” may be “a distinct setting within a computer program or any physical machine interface, in which the same user input will produce perceived different results than it would in other settings” (according to the Wikipedia definition of “mode” in user interface design), the original material of the excerpt from Langgaard’s Antikrist has been in a sense “mismoded”, as alternatives are provided for each word and each note by a systematic but subjective process. “Mismoded” is also a homophonic translation of the name of the character featured in the selected Antikrist excerpt, “Mismodet” (Despondency).
This work is dedicated to the members of Voz Nueva, with many thanks to the SPOR Festival for this opportunity to collaborate with them.
Commisioned and produced by SPOR festival. Supported by Danish Composers Society and KODA’s Fund for Social and Cultural Purposes.