Read the Long Interview with Björn Schmelzer in Slovakian Music Magazine Hudobný život, in English and Slovak

Hudobný život , Slovakian Music Magazine 03/2023/R. 55

Interview with Björn Schmelzer, published in Slovakian (original interview in English)

Below are Schmelzer’s original answers (in English), the introduction is an upgraded google translation…

(Note: After comparing the original interview with the published we discovered that some answers of the original interview were cut out in the final version. We put the uncensored version for our readers as an appendix: probably they were imagined as too anxiety provoking for the readers of the magazine, even with the warning in the title...)

The Unbearable Beauty of Anxiety

(Interview and edit by PATRIK SABO and ANDREA SEREČINOVÁ)

The earth shook that evening in the Vienna Konzerthaus. Not only in the title of the late Renaissance 12-voice mass by Antoine Brumel, but also in the receptors of the audience. The vocal group GRAINDELAVOIX, led by BJÖRN SCHMELZER, presented a new program called Rolling Stone in the world premiere. Pre-baroque polyphony rockers were leaving Vienna on tour and we were there.
Graindelavoix (from the French for "grain of the voice") was created on the threshold of the millennium, yet it is still a specialty for connoisseurs, and even in this target group, not to everyone's taste, exalted by a performance full of dynamic undulations, melismatic glides and revolutionary views of time passing in the Renaissance polyphony. The concert as part of the Resonanzen festival (January 24, 2023) was a feast for the senses, a challenge to perceive many contextual connections and build from them - perhaps even your own - image of a "rolling stone". And it happened in a technically stunning framework of perfect interplay and intonation. Brumel's "Earthquake Mass" (Et ecce terrae motus) has not been preserved in its entirety, and due to ongoing bacterial contamination, the destruction of the musical source will continue. The ensemble's artistic director and author of its concepts, Björn Schmelzer, refused to restore the old artefact, avowed the missing places and filled them with contemporary music by the Portuguese free jazz [sic], and experimental guitarist Manuel Mota. His music begins to sound already in the opening screening of the documentary Il Culto Delle Pietre (L. di Gianni, 1967), which is shown without its original soundtrack. The moments of ritual rubbing against a miraculous stone at a pilgrimage site in Italy stand out even more. Stone is an important motif in all components of the multimedia production – as an object of destruction during an earthquake, as a stone rolled away from Christ's tomb in Bruegel's drawing The Resurrection (to which Schmelzer refers and which was created with the illusory grisaille technique, evoking stone sculptures). The earthquake, in turn, is an accompanying phenomenon of Jesus' resurrection, which Brumel's mass captures in the form of a freely quoted motif of the grand final antiphon of the Matins to the 2nd verse of the 28th chapter of Matthew's Gospel. And to make more complex, it is also a symbol of destruction as such - paper that is destroyed by bacteria, social or ecological destruction, but also the anxiety of Jesus' empty tomb. However, we may be wrong, because as the interview shows, Björn Schmelzer is skeptical about the ability of others to understand his intentions. He provokes, explains, fascinates and his voice is heard...

The Graindelavoix ensemble is a leading representative of a new approach to the interpretation of Renaissance polyphony. The pillars of your style include, for example, a new perspective on tempos, frequent glissandos, exaggerated expression or conceptualism. How did you arrive at it?

It’s a complex question, and I don’t know if I can avoid a complex answer. I think that so called pre-modern repertoire has suffered under its denominator “pre-modern”: which seems to imply pre-subjective, objective, mathematical, artisanal and non-artistic…The historicist claim wants us to believe that there was not yet art music before, let’s say, 1800, and there was not yet a modern concept of art. This is in reality mostly used as an excuse to produce performances which are like “new objectivity”, and the pseudo-modest stance of performers as just mediums who transmit without any subjective intervention, just the material as written in the score and so on. So once you start to criticize this kind of historicism and understand its mechanism, everything changes.
It is clear that composers from the 15th century, for example Johannes Ockeghem or Josquin Desprez, were real artists in the proper sense, and not just great artisans. They used of course the framework of the catholic liturgy, or Gregorian chant (like modern composers would use neoliberal or other frameworks of content and labour possibility) but as contemporary composers they used it, manipulated it in order to curve it, to transform it with the tools of polyphonic counterpoint. This counterpoint rules are never applied in a slavishly manner, but every great composition is in fact a true exception of all these normative rules, composers were never just applying musical rules, but on the contrary engaged in sabotaging them, changing them, transgressing them.
So my approach is an engagement with this changing perspective on what music of the past is, to my idea, completely immersed in artistic modernity, meaning, creating a split or a crack in the given tradition, doing something which alienates identification. Think of Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame: it must have been as weird, strange and alienating for the singers and listeners in 14th century Reims as for us today. That’s what we trans-historically share with the people from the past: our attachment to artworks which is not of identification but of strangeness and artistic alienation, so that’s why we can redeem these works from the past, they really still have something to tell us, they are not just monuments or illustrations of a glorious past, on the contrary.
I’m fascinated by art works from the past and how they are not falling together with the common culture of their own time, how they crack or cut with the symbolic normative order of a historical time: therefore they have an emancipatory potential, even for us now, and that’s what I want to make audible.

When interpreting, you also use unconventional vocal techniques, for example a natural voice with a nasal tone, a naturalistic way of singing with glissandos, which evokes the traditional polyphony as we know it from the regions of southern Italy. Is your goal to create such a sound "design"?

Well, they are unconventional from a certain established classical perspective, and in fact we talk about a period of not even 100 years from the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century where a certain classical conformism was established. But once you go to modern avant-garde, you get all these things back, Sprechgesang, glissandi, ornaments etc…
It says enough when people have no categories to describe what they hear and can only think of folk singing or even non-western music etcetera. I’m not interested in exoticism as such, for itself: in fact we try out a lot of techniques and possibilities and integrate them in the final result. It’s mostly the listener’s inability to put a signifier on it, which makes them decide to find some security in common-sense exoticism: "oh this must be Arabic", when you hear just a sliding tone in a polyphonic piece or a more nasal sound…In fact I never work with these presumptions or categories.
I also don’t really understand why people call what we try to do: "rough singing"…in fact it’s full of micro-tonal nuances, fluidity, plasticity, virtuosity even, voice manipulations, so not at all the rigid use of the voice etc…but when something falls out of the existing categories, people have difficulty to describe the experience and fall back on not always very nuanced descriptions I fear.
Even if you listen to so called “non-western music” or so called traditional music: voices are all different, ornamentation too, even in the same style. It’s like in jazz or popular music, there are so called white voices (with almost no vibrato, but which could apply complex ornamentation) and there are more trembling voices, but also here the variety is infinite. Then there is the question of timbre, which I think is crucial, but hardly ever tackled in early classical music: often what is crucial in the listening effect of a repertoire is the least talked about, I’m intrigued by this kind of paradoxes.
Last comment here: I don’t believe in the so called ‘natural voice’, I think this is something that doesn’t exist. What would that even mean a natural voice? All voices are cultural, or at least in between the physical and the cultural. I agree that the voice is a very strange and ambiguous thing: something totally personal, but at the same time ungraspable, foreign, weird: one cannot even hear objectively one’s own voice: it’s through the other that we have to approach our own vocality. So the voice is at the same time totally intimate and what Lacan calls: “extimate", a foreign almost uncanny object.

How do you choose singers and instrumentalists for specific projects?

Often they emerge on my path, so to speak…some of them I approached because I was fascinated by their voice, others like to join and become part of the group because it fits somehow.
Nevertheless I imagine our ensemble as a bunch of "non-fitting" voices, we are like vocal misfits (laughter)…It’s this not completely fitting element, the profound heterogeneity of the whole of all the voices together, a sort of openness in the approach, in singing together, which produces our very specific sound, or better maybe even, vibe or aura.
I think it’s even more audible, not so much in the timbres of the voices, as in the timing, the rubati, the slidings and general almost non-physical mood of the whole.
I work already many years with almost always the same people, so something of a style emerges, just by doing it together.
It’s wonderful to see these musicians and singers with complete different backgrounds and styles and expertises working together, learning from each other, contaminating each other. My task is just to organise and make possible this mutual contamination between the singers and players. When that happens, of course some magic seems to happen (laughter)

How do you deal with criticism for your approach? How do you respond to it?

I meet with criticism almost all the time. As you can imagine we cause and produce a lot of anxiety among certain listeners (laughter)…I think anxiety as experience in art is not bad at all, it’s just that we are not used to it when encountering early music. A lot of people have chosen this kind of old music because they believe everything is said about it, so it’s safe and secure, there are hardly dissonance, this music according to them radiates a lost immaculate world of perfection, order and control, a lost paradise or safe haven against contemporary chaos.
This kind of listeners were aptly called by Adorno: “resentment listeners”.
And then they encounter our version of music they thought they knew. Of course it’s a shock, but I think it’s a fertile, productive one, that’s what art should provoke, no?
Of course music of the past is not a safe haven or a radiation of a perfect society. In their own way composers of the past articulated the tensions, impossibilities and contradictions of their own time, and it’s exactly this attitude towards the impossible or the unknown, which is trans-historical.
Every CD we release or concert we do is at the same time applauded and criticised: I think it’s a good sign.
And a secret I have to tell you: I secretly really enjoy to read bad critics: mostly they are much better written than good critics, they mostly show much more effort to critically engage with our performance, and even when they dismiss it, for me they often expose an act of (reversed) love. Only when you really love something, you would hate it so deeply too (laughter)…So please give me a bad critic instead of a badly written one, an abstract, empty éloge, often full of misunderstandings, because people never love what you do for the reasons you imagined they do or for the ones you intended, there is always a disappointment there. So that’s why I prefer bad critics.

In the accompanying text for the Rolling Stone project, you stated that you do not want your concept to be perceived as a crossover cliché of old and contemporary music. So what are Graindelavoix projects: a survey of contemporary art, a cultural-artistic excursion or an individual interpretive expression?

It’s funny that a lot of so called contemporary music is also already taken by this historicist mentality. What does contemporary music even mean? I’m convinced that early music, repertoires from the past are in general not made for their own time, in the sense that they were almost always misunderstood, badly interpreted, not appreciated, marginalised etc…So there goes he historicist fantasy! Music is always made for later generations, it gets forgotten, sometimes even almost lost, or manuscripts with music are hibernating for ages in a dusty library. And then someone, maybe idiots like us, feel touched by these repertoires, as if they speak to us…Adorno calls it: a message in a bottle…
Musical repertoires are in this in-between-state of performance: historical contemporaries were too close, too near to them, so they could not really approach them, and we are too far, too distanced from them…Again I like this paradox…
And of course I consider our interpretation or performance of these repertoires part of contemporary music. It’s like performing Shakespeare today, isn’t it? Nobody in theatre would say that it is not part of contemporary culture, because in theatre, happily enough, historicism is basically rejected, or approached with suspicion and rightly so…
That doesn’t mean you should not take historicity serious, but we should get rid of the fantasy of the original performance, the idea that the best interpretation was to be found in the past.
My conviction is that art works never belong to the time or world in which they emerge, that’s why we call them proper art works, they basically don’t belong in any way.
If they would belong we would call it folklore or functional music etc, but not art. Therefore art is in principle emancipatory, it breaks out of normativity and that counts also for art in the past.
For me trying to de-modernise early music is to domesticate it, to make it into “Gebrauchsmusik”, I find that ideologically very suspicious.

You refer to Brumel as the first "eco-composer" and point out that people often ignore reality until disaster strikes. Shortly after the premiere of your program in Vienna, Turkey was hit by an earthquake...

It was a little bit a joke to call Brumel like that, because nowadays it’s fancy that an artist shows his political or ecological awareness: but it results often, like in capitalism in general, in a new form of commodification: a program about ecology sells just better for festival, it’s a little bit the sad truth.
I think art in general has a special relation to disasters and catastrophes, music especially is linked to lamentations, conjuring loss and pain, and so on, these are dynamics that interest me really a lot. With the Earthquake Mass of Brumel what fascinated me was that it appears in a time of big social and religious crisis, the early 16th century, think of the reformation, the peasant revolts and iconoclasm, the independence wars in the Low Countries. As I said before art is our encounter, our engagement with the traumatic, with the impossible. I don’t see music just as a sort of aesthetic escapism, or offering some consolation when one is sad. Of course it can also fulfil this role, but for me more important is how musical works generate meaning, which is at the same time impossible to fixate, it remains ambiguous or mysterious, hence its enduring attraction or fascination.

In the score of Brumel's Mass, there are missing places, gaps caused by bacterial contamination. You decided to fill the unknown places in a very specific way. Do you want the listener to clearly perceive the information about the lost parts as a symbol of destruction?

I call the program a musical atlas of disasters or catastrophes, it helped even to create a sort of hidden narrative to structure the improvisatory interludes between the parts of Brumel’s mass.
In fact I wanted to demonumentalize Brumel’s composition and letting it appear and again disappear in and out of instrumental sessions which were created by Mota together with the other players.
Instead of overcoming the parts of the mass that were lost, by reconstructing them, and the listeners would just think it was the old repertoire, we thought it would be much more interesting to integrate into the performance the ruinous work of time itself, the Nachleben or afterlife of things, making audible destruction and decay; this was in the renaissance equally an obsession.
It’s not that you like to communicate in a symbolic way: it’s more that the loss of the music itself offers a possibility for another sort of creation: loss doesn’t need to be compensated, hidden or disavowed - I think bad art is invested in that, giving the listener a false feeling of satisfaction etc…-  we tried to confront the listener with a more complex image of the past, including its ruins, its catastrophes…the repetitive mood of Brumel’s mass fits well into this idea: repetition is always somehow linked to something traumatic, something is repeated because it cannot be integrated symbolically...

In Rolling Stone, you work with multiple layers. In addition to music, we perceive a documentary film, an iconic image or stage lighting. This multimedia brings the concert program to the level of conceptual audiovisual art...

In a way the Rolling Stone program has a very simple build up and the solution to project the film on this curtain, was the result of technical obstacles. I love this idea: that in the end creative freedom and ideas emerge from the restrictions itself that cause initial problems and failure. In a way as artists we should be more grateful for the restrictions we are confronted with. It’s like with subventions: of course one would like to get more money to do more, but in the end it is the restriction and limitation which allows one to remain faithful to its artistic cause, it’s never the possibilities (laughter)…
The projection based on the 1967 documentary Il culto delle pietre by Luigi di Gianni was from the beginning the starting point of the show: I asked the guitarist Manuel Mota, who is somehow a legend in his own field or scene of experimental improv music, to compose and create a new soundtrack that would accompany the film, which he developed together with the two horn players, cornetto player and serpent player. And out of this experience would slowly emerge the Earthquake mass composition of Brumel…

Appendix with cut out questions and Schmelzer’s answers:

The interpretation of Renaissance polyphony from original manuscripts was to some extent also an improvisational art and required singers to have knowledge of the complex rules of historical music theory, counterpoint, musica ficta, and mensural notation. To what extent do you use improvisation during the rehearsing process or on the stage?

Mostly we don’t use improvisation, we also don’t sing from original manuscripts. Of course we add stuff, like musica ficta (chromatic alterations) and ornamentation etc…
My interest is rather to get rid of the score in the rehearsal process or performance, which is in fact the same as realising it: a sort of de-realising the score: it means rather than improvisation, to try to activate all virtual elements of a score, its absences, gaps, emphasizing contradictions, cross-relations…I call it : squeezing out a score, a concept which in a way comes from medieval theology and is called with a Greek word: kenosis. It means :emptying out, externalising, alienating…Luther translated it as: Entäußerung…In theology it’s the move from something substantial to a subjective changing of this substance, so it’s nicely applicable to a score or a musical diagram. In art you see this evolution in the middle ages from a Christ on the Cross as a victorious king to Christ as a man of sorrows, full of blood, a mocking king, a complete wasted subject…for me that’s how one should approach polyphony too, making it subjective, it means going till the end of its potentiality, squeezing out all what is there written and suggested in the score. It’s a weird kind of historicism, in a way, maybe the problem with historicism is that it was never historicistic enough, and that it should be applied to all absences, virtualities, horizons, negative elements, almost never counted for.

Brumel reflects Christ`s resurrection as an earthquake also in musical semantical way. Can you see an analogy to the biblical „timore magno“ (great scare) of prophets, apostles, or the Virgin Mary when they are confronted with the voice of God, angels, and the resurrected Christ? Is it fear of the fact that something we believed in actually happened?

I like the idea that in the Bible the Resurrection is a psycho-acoustic phenomenon, nobody saw it, it’s a pure act of faith, there is basically nothing to see. And the rolling away of the stone is just a terrible noise, making appear an empty grave, a black hole (as in Bruegel’s engraving).
Of course our dramaturgy points also at another earthquake, which happened on Good Friday, when Christ dies on the cross. It’s the moment the curtain in the temple rips and it appears there is nothing behind the curtain so to speak, we somehow re-enact that moment just before the Credo. Christianity is one of the only religions that has in its core a profound atheism: that’s why art and its ambiguity could be engaged in this tradition I think.

As Andrew Parrott says in the book "Composers’ Intentions: Lost Traditions of Musical Performance" there are two boundary attitudes in approach to an old repertoire: either to try to „reconstruct“ the original aims of composers of the past (and we know this is impossible) or try to discover our own way how to enjoy the old music today. Where in between these poles is your own point of view?

Let me say that I try to find still a third, alternative way, not the first one, which, as you say yourself, is not really an option, but also the second option sounds all too neoliberal to me. Or you must understand enjoyment in the psychoanalytic way binding pleasure with displeasure, or the displeasure as pleasure: in this sense yes, we should redeem this old music because it has the potential to offer challenges to us today, to trigger us! I think it was Walter Benjamin who said that you cannot change the present and of course not the future which still has to come, but you can paradoxically change the past, and it is a condition for change in the future. So well, here lays the important task for early music performers to change the past through performance and offering to contemporary listeners something of an unheard past. Not jus performing what listeners already know, but trying to transform or crack something in what they think they know already, offering some tools for emancipation and subjectivity to go on.


Neznesiteľná krása úzkosti


Zem sa zachvela v ten večer vo viedenskom Konzerthause. Nielen v názve neskororenesančnej 12-hlasnej omše Antoina Brumela, ale aj v receptoroch publika. Vokálny súbor GRAINDELAVOIX pod vedením BJÖRNA SCHMELZERA uviedol vo svetovej premiére nový program nazvaný vábivo Rolling Stone. Rockeri predbarokovej polyfónie vyrážali z Viedne na turné a my sme boli pri tom.

Graindelavoix (z franc. „zrno hlasu“) vznikol ešte na prahu milénia, napriek tomu je stále špecialitou pre znalcov, a ani v tejto cieľovej skupine nie je každému pochuti exhaltovaný prejav plný dynamických vlnení, melizmatických kĺzaní a prevratných pohľadov na čas plynúci v renesančnej polyfónii. Koncert v rámci festivalu Resonanzen (24. 1. 2023) bol pastvou pre zmysly, výzvou vnímať mnohé kontextuálne prepojenia a stavať z nich – azda aj vlastný – obraz „valiaceho sa kameňa“. A dialo sa to v technicky ohromujúcom rámci dokonalej súhry a intonácie.

Brumelova „Omša zemetrasenia“ (Et ecce terrae motus) sa nezachovala v celku a pre pokračujúcu bakteriálnu kontamináciu bude deštrukcia prameňa pokračovať. Umelecký vedúci súboru a autor jeho konceptov Björn Schmelzer odmietol starý artefakt reštaurovať, chýbajúce miesta priznal a vyplnil ich súčasnou hudbou portugalského free‐ jazzového a experimentálneho gitaristu Manuela Motu. Jeho hudba začína znieť už v úvodnej projekcii dokumentu Kult kameňa (L. di Gianni, 1967), ktorý je premietaný bez zvuku. O to viac vynikajú momenty rituálneho trenia sa o zázračný kameň na pútnickom mieste v Taliansku. Kameň je dôležitým motívom všetkých zložiek multimediálnej produkcie – ako predmet deštrukcie počas zemetrasenia, ako odvalený kameň z Kristovho hrobu na Bruegelovom obraze Vzkriesenie (ku ktorému Schmelzer odkazuje a ktorý bol vytvorený iluzívnou technikou grisaille, evokujúcou kamenné sochy). Zemet‐ rasenie je zase sprievodný jav Ježišovho vzkriesenia, ktorý Brumelova omša zachytáva v podobe voľne citovaného motívu veľ konočnej antifóny ranných chvál na 2. verš 28. kapitoly Matúšovho evanjelia. A aby to nebolo také jednoduché, je zároveň symbolom deštrukcie ako takej – papiera, ktorý ničí baktéria, spoločenskej či ekologickej skazy, ale aj úzkosti z Ježišovho prázdneho hrobu.
Lenže, možno sa mýlime, pretože ako vyplýva z rozhovoru, Björn Schmelzer je skeptický, pokiaľ ide o schopnosť druhých pochopiť jeho zámery. Provokuje, vysvetľuje, fascinuje a jeho hlas je počuť...

Súbor Graindelavoix je popredným reprezentantom nového prístupu k interpretácii renesančnej polyfónie. K pilierom vášho štýlu patrí napríklad nový pohľad na tempá, časté glissandá, naddimenzovaný výraz či konceptualizmus. Ako ste k nemu dospeli?

Je to komplexná problematika a neviem, či sa mi podarí vyhnúť sa zložitej odpovedi. Myslím si, že repertoár nazývaný ako „predmoderný“ trpí týmto označením, ktoré implikuje významy ako predsubjektívny, objektívny, matematický, remeselný, neumelecký... Historici sa nás snažia presvedčiť, že pred rokom, povedzme, 1800 neexistovala umelecká hudba, neexistoval moderný koncept umenia ako takého. Takto sa najčastejšie ospravedlňujú prístupy v štýle „novej objektivity“ či postoje interpretov, ktorí sa s falošnou skromnosťou stavajú do pozície mediátorov, realizujúcich čistý notový zápis bez akejkoľvek subjektívnej intervencie. Ale keď sa začnete kriticky vymedzovať voči tomuto druhu historizmu a pochopíte jeho mechanizmus, veci sa začnú meniť.
Skladatelia 15. storočia, napríklad Johannes Ockeghem alebo Josquin Desprez, boli, samozrejme, skutočnými umelcami a nie iba šikovnými remeselníkmi. Iste, používali formát katolíckej liturgie alebo gregoriánskych chorálov, no manipulovali s ním, „ohýbali ho“ pomocou nástrojov viachlasného kontrapunktu. Ani pravidlá kontrapunktu neuplatňovali otrocky, každá veľ ká kompozícia je reálnou výnimkou z normatívnych pravidiel. Skladatelia sa angažovali skôr v sabotáži, zmene a prekračovaní hudobných pravidiel, nielen v ich používaní.
Ja sa zúčastňujem na tomto meniacom sa pohľade na hudbu minulosti, ktorá je podľa mňa totálne umelecky moderná, snažím sa odtrhnúť od zaužívanej tradí‐ cie, vzdialiť sa „identifikácii“ doby. Spomeňme si na Machautovu Messe de Nostre Dame. Musela na spevákov a poslucháčov v Remeši v 14. storočí pôsobiť rovnako zvláštne ako dnes na nás. To je to, čo s minulosťou zdieľame naprieč obdobiami: puto k umeleckým dielam, ktoré nie sú typické, dobu identifikujúce, ale zvláštne, bizarné. Fascinuje ma tvorba, ktorá sa rozchádza so symbolickým normatívom svojej doby, vďaka čomu mala emancipačný potenciál vo svojej dobe a má ho aj dnes. Chcem, aby práve toto bolo počuť.

Pri interpretácii využívate aj nekonvenčné vokálne techniky, napríklad prirodzený hlas s nosovým tónom, naturalistický spôsob spevu s glissandami, ktorý evokuje tradičný viachlas, ako ho poznáme z regiónov južného Talianska. Je vaším cieľom vytvoriť taký zvukový „dizajn“?

Iste, z určitého klasického pohľadu sú tieto techniky nekonvenčné, ale hovoríme o období asi 100 rokov, od polovice 19. storočia, keď sa zakorenil istý klasický konformizmus. V modernom avantgardnom umení sa opäť objavuje Sprechgesang, glissando, ornamentika... Ak poslucháč nemá kategórie, signifikát pre to, čo počuje, zvyčajne mu napadne ľudový spev či, dokonca, mimoeurópska hudba. Začuje nosový tón alebo glissando v polyfónii a pomyslí si: „Toto musí byť arabské!“. Mňa však nezaujíma exotizmus ako taký, nepracujem s týmto aspektom. Áno, hľadáme, skúšame rôzne techniky a možnosti, ktoré integrujeme do konečného tvaru.
Nerozumiem ani tomu, prečo sa to, o čo sa snažíme, zvykne nazývať „surovým spevom“. V skutočnosti je naša interpretácia plná mikrotonálnych nuáns, tekutosti, plastickosti aj virtuozity v manipulácii hlasom, takže vôbec nejde o rigidné spievanie. Keď sa niečo vymyká z jestvujúcich kategórií a ľudia majú problémy svoju skúsenosť opísať, často sa uchýlia k zjednodušujúcim označeniam.
Pri počúvaní „nezápadnej hudby“ alebo takzvanej tradičnej hudby znejú napriek jednému štýlu tiež úplne odlišné hlasy aj ornamentika, podobne ako v jazze alebo v populárnej hudbe. Existujú takzvané biele hlasy (s takmer žiadnym vibratom, no schopné realizovať zložitú ornamentiku), potom viac vibrujúce hlasy (aj tu je variabilita nekonečná), máme tu timbre, farbu tónu, ktorú považujem za kľúčovú (avšak málokto sa ňou zaoberá pri skoršej starej hudbe)...
A môj posledný komentár k otázke – neverím v takzvaný „prirodzený hlas“. Podľa mňa nič také neexistuje. Všetky hlasy sú kultúrne, alebo sa pohybujú niekde medzi fyzickým a kultúrnym. Hlas je čosi veľmi zvláštne a nejasné. Na jednej strane je veľmi osobný, zároveň však neuchopiteľný, zvláštny, cudzí. Veď svoj hlas nemôžeme ani objektívne počuť, pretože k našej vlastnej vokalite máme prístup len sprostredkovane, cez druhých. Hlas je teda dokonale intímny a zároveň cudzí „ex‐ tímny“ objekt, ako to pomenoval Lacan.

Ako si vyberáte spevákov a inštrumentalistov na konkrétne projekty?

Často na nich narazím, niektorých som sám oslovil, lebo som bol fascinovaný ich hlasom, iní sa radi pridajú a stávajú sa súčasťou súboru, pretože zapadnú. Náš súbor vidím ako balík „nepasujúcich“ hlasov. Práve prvok nedokonalosti, zásadná heterogenita celého súboru, spojenia hla‐ sov, otvorený prístup k spoločnému spevu – to všetko vytvára náš „vibe“ či až akúsi auru. Nejde ani tak o konkrétnu farebnosť, je to skôr v „timingu“, rubátach, kĺzavých pohyboch a v tej takmer „nehmotnosti“ celkového dojmu. Keďže už dlho väčšinou pracujem s rovnakými ľuďmi, štýl sa vytvára už len tým, že spolu robíme. Je úžasné pozorovať týchto hudobníkov a spevákov s odlišným štýlom, školením a špecializáciou, ako sa jeden od druhého učia a navzájom sa „kontaminujú“. Mojou úlohou je len im to umožniť a potom sa stane aj zázrak. (smiech)

Stretávate sa s kritikou za svoj prístup? Ako jej čelíte?

Takmer celý čas sa stretávam s kritikou. Asi si viete predstaviť, že v mnohých poslucháčoch vyvolávame úzkostné pocity. (smiech) Podľa mňa však úzkosť ako zážitok v umení vôbec nie je zlá, len na ňu nie sme zvyknutí v kontakte s hudbou starou niekoľ ko storočí. Mnohí sa k nej obracajú, lebo je pre nich istotou a bezpečím: takmer sa v nej nevyskytujú disonancie, bolo o nej už všetko povedané, a preto je strateným rajom nepoškvrnenosti, poriadku a kontroly v kontraste s chaosom dneška. Adorno takýchto poslucháčov nazýva „resentimentálnymi.“ Keď sa stretnú so známou hudbou v našej verzii, je to pre nich šok. Ide však o produktívny šok, ktorý by malo umenie vyvolávať, nie? Hudba minulosti nie je naším bezpečným prístavom ani projekciou dokonalej spoločnosťou. Skladatelia v minulosti vyjadrovali napätia, nedostatky a protirečenia svojej doby a práve tento postoj k neznámemu, nedosiahnuteľnému je nadčasový.
Každý náš projekt – nahrávka alebo koncert – býva ocenený i kritizovaný zároveň. Myslím si, že je to dobré znamenie. Ja si potajme užívam negatívne kritiky, pretože sú väčšinou oveľa lepšie napísané ako tie pozitívne, odhaľujú oveľa viac snahy autora kriticky vnímať našu interpretáciu. Hoci ju odmietajú, pre mňa to často odhaľuje lásku „naruby“. Len ak niečo naozaj milujete, dokážete to aj do hĺbky nenávidieť. (smiech) Radšej chcem negatívnu kritiku než zle napísanú recenziu, prázdne pochvaly, často plné nepochopenia. Ľudia aj tak milujú to, čo robíte, z iných dôvodov, ako by ste si želali, aby to milovali.

V sprievodnom texte k projektu Rolling Stone ste sa vyjadrili, že nechcete, aby bol váš koncept vnímaný ako crossoverové klišé spojenia starej a súčasnej hudby. Čím sú teda projekty Graindelavoix: prieskumom súčasného umenia, kultúrno‐umeleckou exkurziou alebo individuálnym interpretačným vyjadrením?

Je vtipné, že už aj veľkú časť takzvanej súčasnej hudby zasiahla historizujúca mentalita. Čo vlastne je súčasná hudba? Som presvedčený, že diela starej hudby nevznikli pre svoju dobu – takmer vždy boli nepochopené, zle interpretované, nedocenené, marginalizované... Čiže tu sa končí fantázia historika! Hudba je vždy vytvorená pre neskoršie generácie, zabudne sa na ňu, niekedy sa dokonca takmer stratí alebo rukopisy hibernujú stáročia v prašnej knižnici. A potom niekoho, možno bláznov ako sme my, tento repertoár zasiahne, akoby nás zrazu oslovil. Adorno to nazýva „správou vo fľaši.“ Súčasníci boli príliš blízko, aby mohli „vykročiť“, my sme zasa príliš ďaleko. Páči sa mi tento paradox.
Našu interpretáciu tohto repertoáru považujem, samozrejme, za súčasť súčasnej hudby. Je to predsa, ako keď stále hráme Shakespeara, nie? Nikto v divadle by nepovedal, že to nie je súčasťou súčasnej kultúry, pretože v divadle je historický prístup prakticky odmietnutý alebo sa naň hľadí so zdravou podozrievavosťou. To neznamená, že by sme nemali brať historickosť vážne, ale mali by sme prestať fantazírovať o „originálnej interpretácii“, o tom, že najlepšia interpretácia pochádza z minulosti.
Som presvedčený, že umelecké diela nepatria do doby alebo sveta, v ktorom vznikli. Nazývame ich skutočnými umeleckými dielami, lebo nepatria nikam. Ak by patrili, označili by sme ich napríklad ako folklór alebo úžitkovú hudbu. Preto je umenie v zásade emancipačné, vymaňujúce sa z normatívnosti, čo platí aj pre hudbu minulosti. Snaha demodernizovať starú hudbu znamená pre mňa domestikovať ju, premeniť ju na „Gebrauchsmusik“. Je to ideologicky veľmi podozrivé.

O Brumelovi hovoríte ako o prvom „eko‐skladateľovi“ a poukazujete na to, že ľudia často ignorujú realitu, až kým nenastane katastrofa. Krátko po premiére vášho programu vo Viedni zasiahlo Turecko zemetrasenie...

Tá charakteristika Brumela bola myslená trochu ako vtip, pretože dnes je trendy sa v umení prezentovať ako politicky alebo ekologicky uvedomelý. Lenže ako to už býva v kapitalizme, vedie to potom k novému spôsobu komodifikácie. Konkrétne, program o ekológii sa lepšie predáva na festivaloch. To je trochu smutná pravda.
Myslím si, že umenie má špeciálny vzťah ku katastrofám. Hudba sa viaže napríklad k lamentáciám, zaklínaniu strát či bolesti. Na Brumelovej „Omši zemetrasenia“ ma fascinovalo, že sa objavuje v období veľkej sociálnej a náboženskej krízy, na začiatku 16. storočia, čiže v časoch reformácie, roľníckych povstaní, obrazoborectva, vojny o nezávislosť v Nizozemsku. Ako som už povedal, umenie je naše stretnutie s traumatickým a nemožným. Nepovažujem hudbu len za druh estetického úniku či ponuku na útechu. Pre mňa je dôležitejšie, že hudobné diela generujú význam, ktorý je nemožné fixovať, zostáva tajomným, a preto fascinujúcim.

V partitúre Brumelovej omše sú vypadnuté miesta, medzery spôsobené bakteriálnou kontamináciou. Neznáme miesta ste sa rozhodli vyplniť veľmi špecifickým spôsobom. Chcete, aby poslucháč jasne vnímal informáciu o stratených častiach ako symbol deštrukcie?

Program nazývam hudobným atlasom katastrof alebo pohrôm, čo pomohlo vytvoriť aj určitý skrytý príbeh na štruktúrovanie improvizovaných úsekov. Chcel som odmonumentalizovať Brumelovu kompozíciu a nechať ju, aby sa objavovala a mizla v rámci inštrumentálnych interlúdií, ktoré vytvoril Manuel Mota s ostatnými hráčmi. Namiesto toho, aby sme chýbajúce úseky v partitúre rekonštruovali a vyvolali v poslucháčoch dojem, že počúvajú pôvodnú podobu diela, bolo pre nás zaujímavejšie integrovať do vystúpenia aj deštrukčný prvok zubu času.
Nie, nejde o komunikáciu prostredníctvom symbolov, strata hudby samotnej skôr ponúka možnosť na ďalší spôsob tvorivosti. Strata nemusí byť kompenzovaná, skrytá alebo zapieraná, ako to robí umenie, ktoré ponúka falošný pocit spokojnosti. My sme chceli poslucháča konfrontovať s komplexnejším obrazom minulosti, vrátane jeho ruín a katastrof. Repetitívny charakter Brumelovej omše do tohto konceptu zapadol dobre. Opakovanie je vždy nejako spojené s niečím traumatickým. Niečo sa opakuje, pretože sa to nedá integrovať symbolicky.

V programe Rolling Stone pracujete s viacerými vrstvami. Okrem hudby vnímame dokumentárny film, ikonický obraz či scénické osvetlenie. Táto multimediálnosť posúva koncertný program na úroveň konceptuálneho audiovizuálneho umenia...

V určitom zmysle má program Rolling Stone veľmi jednoduchú štruktúru a riešenie projektovať film na záclonu pred pódiom si vynútili technické prekážky. Veľmi sa mi páči myšlienka, že kreatívna sloboda a nápady vznikajú nakoniec samy osebe z obmedzení, ktoré na začiatku pôsobia ako problémy a zlyhania. V určitom zmys‐ le by sme ako umelci mali byť vďačnejší za obmedzenia, ktorým čelíme. Projekcia dokumentu Il culto delle pietre z roku 1967 od Luigiho di Gianniho však bola od začiatku východiskovým bodom vystúpenia. Oslovil som gitaristu Manuela Motu, ktorý je legendou vo svojom odbore aj na scéne experimentálnej improvizovanej hudby. Požiadal som ho, aby skomponoval a vytvoril nový „soundtrack“, ktorý by sprevádzal film. Vytvoril ho spolu s hráčmi na dvoch lesných rohoch, cinku a serpen‐ te. No a z tohto úvodu sa postupne vynorí Brumelova „Omša zemetrasenia“...