Jan. 1, 2009
Arvydas Malcys: „…Music Has to Flow, Live, Tell…“
Author: Šarūnas Nakas
Jan. 1, 2009
Author: Šarūnas Nakas
If we agree with the assumption that the composer’s goal (at least, one of the most important) is to create an original world (this is just an assumption!), we should immediately define from what the world emerges from and how. Here we find ourselves in almost the same position as sci-fi writer, thinking what could be the circumstances (maybe not yet existing?) and the conditions (apparently impossible so far?) to put the ideas and the characters into, so that the desired visions would unfold in the most natural and effective way. Of course, for the author it’s (somewhat) easier to project the ideas than to explain to anyone how and why do they appear. The choice of the artist, however rational, is still largely determined by the uncontrolable flair for turning events into the most surprising direction, surprising not only for the spectators and listeners, but also for the creator himself. Therefore, all efforts to assert with certainty that supposedly the composer X chose the Y genre and Z form because the composer X continues the tradition of A, taking into account the characteristics of the B period and obeying the requirements of the L orchestra and the P festival – hit the wall of indifferent and irresistible reality, splashing into a zillion of tiny droplets, with no energy and meaning.
In this case, what can you say about the music of the composer Arvydas Malcys? Repeat the information from the curriculum sheets, evidencing the history of his studies and work practices? Search (probably) for some obscure parallels with others, perhaps the artists of a similar vein and fate? Rely on statements from his interviews or somebody’s texts about him and his music?
But all this is already the thing of the past. In the latest panorama of Lithuanian music, Malcys has long been a brand, a specific phenomenon which speaks itself. His record-breaking productivity is equivalent to an efficient work of the architect, consistently and rapidly building one district of the city after another. In addition, objects designed by Malcys are often monumental and (at least because of this) they can not be overlooked. Still, I want to immediately associate Malcys with hard-working Germans, Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) and Hans Werner Henze (b. 1926), submerged to their ears into the sea of instrumental concertos and symphonies – but here we are going to talk not about the history and heroes of the genre, but about the composer Arvydas Malcys and his music only.
I admire the talent of Malcys. For me, he is like a sailor sent by the Spanish Queen, who crossed the ocean with several ships and conquered a lot of new territories. Over a couple of decades – as many as 29 orchestral compositions from him. No other Lithuanian composer can compete with Malcys for such productivity. Fifteen years – ten instrumental concertos: two for flute (1995, 2007), for viola (1997), for trombone (2003), for soprano saxophone (2004), for piano (2005), for clarinet (2007), for tenor saxophone (2008), for cello (2009), and the double – Sinfonia Concertante (2008; three versions: for clarinet and viola, for two violins, for violin and viola).
We have to stop here. Behind the windows, there is not the nineteenth century anymore, when the world was crawled with romantics of the life and the art, obsessed by their inspirations and seemingly only waiting for the opportunity to shine in all possible ways: from hectic passages to stupendous gigantic forms. Times have changed, trends and opportunities too: no one can ignore it.
But Malcys breaks down the rules. Expectations of the listeners, established symbols, public opinion – everything is questioned slightly and tilted in a different way: nothing is rejected but nothing is used in the usual way (as if one would work, at the same time, both for their own side and for the opponents). Malcys forms a kind of anomaly whose magnetism and gravitation divert the observers to a perplexing orbit which crosses the territories of classical and avant-garde music, trespasses their isolation and integrity, and rejects many limitations. It is a unique experience arising from the discrepancy of the inner world and the need for personal freedom.
What causes this need to transgress? Probably it is the the rebellious nature of Malcys, which determines the disregard of some superstitions and gaining ground of the others, the need for uncomplicated style and the aggressive overload of information, countless allusions to the music by other authors and the wish to create the substitutes for classical forms, the aesthetics of hints, surrenders and homages, the clever tactics of bait and deceit based on the schemes of glaring myths.
Perhaps this happens because Malcys reacts to the ambivalent environment: his mind is being incessantly attacked by academic legends and avant-garde challenges. Without identifying himself with either side, the composer debates with both of them at once. Each response is encrypted with two codes, as if trying to fight on two fronts. This reveals the essence of Malcys’ philosophy: he is a traditionalist with a postmodern virus in his head. If we agree with this (still almost) paradox, the sky lightens and we observe leisurely cofigurations of the clouds that allow us to take a look at that the composer really cares about, rather thant what we don’t find (or vice versa – unexpectedly detect and then get embarrassed).
Then we see that Malcys’ music evolves like a drifting continent: genetically derived from the coldish Lithuanian modernism, it mutates into the warmer standards, more friendly to conservative listeners. However, this drift is totally unpredictable, spontaneous and even inconsistent. Malcys can write a tonal magnificent symphony (as if following some romanticist) and right after that – a vibrant shocking avant-garde opus (as if he has just read a book on extended instrumental techniques). Times, spaces, sensations and impressions jumble up like the languages in building the Tower of Babel. These are not isolated cases: it is a permanent state of this oeuvre and its most prominent feature.
Breaking the aesthetic boundaries (maybe quite inadvertently?), ignoring the major strategies (maybe without an ill will?), Malcys simplifies many other aspects (musical language and form), becoming immensely attractive to the contemporary performers (even very famous), who profess the classical canon but who are looking for (at least sometimes) something fresher than the works of classics from one and a half hundred years ago. Such dialogue with classical virtuosi is (probably) the most important impetus to the composer’s productivity. All Malcys’ music is being constantly performed and recorded; isn’t it the most serious aspiration of the author?
“...Music has to flow, live, tell...” – Arvydas Malcys said in one interview. After such words, it’s best (and it’s time) to listen to something. Because putting final period in this story is nothing but possible.