Academic journal article Current Musicology


Academic journal article Current Musicology


Article excerpt

In this series of letters, the musicologist and violinist Gascia Ouzounian (writing from Belfast) and the composer Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri (writing from Berlin and Stuttgart) discuss the latter's music, touching on such topics as: graphic notation; existential therapy; collaboration and communication; "energy" and "live-ness" within musical composition and performance; and site-specific sound installation. Their discussion is supplemented with images, excerpts of scores, and video of Papalexandri-Alexandri's compositions and installations since 2005.

26 October 2012

Dear Marianthi,

Just yesterday I was speaking on the phone with a friend of mine, the pianist Matt Bourne, who mentioned your name by chance. He didn't know we knew each other; he didn't know that I had been interviewing you for a while or that I wanted to write about your work. We were talking about notation, about how, in realizing a score, a performer is normally executing a representation of the composer's ideas rather than the ideas themselves. This can be an unsettling problem for some people. I wonder if you ever find this problematic.

The first composition I ever heard of yours was B as I eye us be. I was at the premiere, when Scott Wilson played it at UCSD in 2005. You scored this piece for a bass player and an imaginary performer: an imaginary performer who also contributes, in the actual performer's mind, to the execution of the piece during the live performance. The actual performer and the imaginary performer each have their own parts; they share the same instrument, and, the actual performer plays as though the imaginary performer were also playing. I thought this was a pretty wild idea ... not only because it asks the performer to engage with the live performance situation but to respond to a simultaneously occurring, imagined performance as well, but because it takes common experiences like listening, responding, imagining, playing with others, and interrupts these; reveals them as something other than mundane, as "givens"; exposes the private act of thinking within the public act of performing; allows the subconscious to enter the realm of the conscious . . .

I'm sure I didn't think all these things when I first encountered that work. I probably only thought it was an interesting idea and that the performance was interesting, too, but, having come to get to know you and your work over the years, I feel more confident in making this claim: that your music, to my mind, anyway, has a certain power that can only belong to that which is first broken ... a revelatory power. I guess it's a fact, or maybe a feature of existence that, in order for something to be exposed, something else must first break or give way. In this case there are concepts, habits, behaviors, conventions, and even languages that break and give way to underlying, perhaps unexamined or unknown concepts, habits, behaviors, languages . . . I suppose this is what most critical acts want to accomplish, but are most critical acts creative like yours? I don't know.

Did you know that there is something called <>? It is a branch of psychoanalysis wherein the therapist attempts to expose those <> that have resulted in some kind of inner conflict for the patient. One of those given facts of existence is, apparently, the inevitability of death. The others given facts of existence are, I think, somewhat more contentious. They are: the responsibility that comes with personal freedom, existential isolation, and meaninglessness. I think it could be argued that these latter are features, and not facts, of existence. Then again, perhaps our common understanding of death is limited such that we will one day have a conception that does not view death as inevitable, either.

Do you remember when we played your piece Models for the composition jury at UCSD? …

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