The Quiet Music of Alois Pinos

By Medek, Ivo | Czech Music, March-April 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Quiet Music of Alois Pinos


Medek, Ivo, Czech Music


Alois S. Pinos (*1925) is a professor at the Music Faculty of the Janacek Academy of Performing Arts in Brno and one of the key figures in Czech music since 1960, both in composition and theory, and in teaching. The defining features of his personality are a positive outlook on the world, humour and vitality, a continuing taste for discovering new things, the ability to share them with others and an energetic commitment to his work that many two generations younger might envy. He is among those Czech composers who have been strongly influenced by the second avant garde but do not reject or deny roots leading back to Janacek or Bartok. He has composed both symphonic and chamber music, and his electronic and electro-acoustic work has also attracted attention. His works have been played in concerts all over the world and have been broadcast by major stations. He has won the Classic Prize for composition twice. Pinos's contributions to music theory lie mostly in the generalisation of his own techniques as a compo ser. His work in this context includes exploration of the possibilities of interval orders and tone groups (Pinos, A.: Tonove skupiny, Panton 1971, Pinos, A.: Tone Groups, JAMU 2002), the creation of a series of pieces using general principles of composition and the specifics of team compositions. In the 1960s he himself led a team of composers and today -- together with Milos Stedron and Ivo Medek -- he is a member of another composing team, with which he has written two chamber orchestras and a symphony. Pinos's lectures and publications are also important. Since 1984 he has been a permanent lecturer at the international courses in Darmstadt and has presented papers at dozens of conferences throughout Europe. In addition to the books mentioned above, he has been publishing regularly in the specialist journals for more than forty years. His teaching, as well, deserves recognition since he has been teaching without a break at the Janacek cademy for more than fifty years. Thanks to his contacts with trends in composition in Europe as a whole, and to his personal courage, even in the times of the repressive communist ideology of art in the Seventies and Eighties he always taught in the spirit of contemporary music throughout the world. His reputation drew many students from Slovakia and Prague.

This year Pinos was awarded the City of Brno Prize for Lifelong Achievement. We used the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

Do you think we can still expect some new development in contemporary music, and if so, can its direction be predicted?

Faith in progress in the arts, especially in the sense of continuous improvement, has been shown to be a chimera, but change and development in the arts, as in the whole of society, goes on. The arts and music with them keep changing. Just so long as they are not going round in circles! I only hope that the sparks of imagination and desire for aesthetic search and exploration won't be extinguished in the ocean of technically perfect and accessible automatic sound machines and that serious, I mean "non-popular" music won't be drowned in cheap eclecticism and commercialism. One can try and predict directions in musical development, but I doubt that any specific longer-term forecasts would be reliable.

How do you -- as a still active teacher at JAMU [The Janacek Academy] -- see developments in what is known as the "Brno School of Composition"?

The Brno school of composition crystallised in the 1960s. It was innovative, open to worldwide trends in new music, took a position opposed to the ruling "socialist" cultural policy and had its own specific distinctive features, from the updated tradition of Janacek to a fondness for montage and collage, multimedia projects, music happenings and team composition. Even in the 1970s and 80s, under the hardline communist regime after the Soviet invasion, the Brno school of composition stuck to its identity in tough conditions.

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