March 25, 2011
In Music - Like in the Life...
A conversation with composer Arvydas Malcys
Author: Justina Paltanavičiūtė
March 25, 2011
A conversation with composer Arvydas Malcys
Author: Justina Paltanavičiūtė
„The composer perceives an originality as attempts to discover the own roots and those of various surrounding phenomena, not as a wish to distinguish himself or be an innovator,” - musicologist Beata Baublinskienė wrote about composer Arvydas Malcys. Probably, this statement says very much: music for him is not mathematics or grammar; it is a direct reflection of his life, so A.Malcys finds inspirations for his creative activities in the surrounding environment as well as in other branches of art and personal experience.
Music works created by A. Malcys are often presented at international modern music festivals; however, a premiere of symphony “Grünwald“ will take place in this hometown on 25 March and it will be performed by Kaunas City Symphonic Orchestra. According to the composer, this premiere is very important for him. Although he left Kaunas for studies in Vilnius and remained in the capital, A. Malcys takes a great interest in cultural events in Kaunas and cherishes sentimentalism in respect of the hometown. Hereinafter we speak with composer A. Malcys about his hometown, his creation and symphony “Grünwald“.
Justina Paltanavičiūtė: You are both a performer and a composer: at Lithuanian Academy of Music, you had completed the study programmes in violoncello and in composition. However, how you would define you: are you, first of all, a composer or a performer?
Arvydas Malcys: I never analyze what I am first of all. I think simultaneously existing “roles” of a composer and of a performer complement each other. Sometimes the knowledge of an instrumentalist helps me and sometimes disturbs. In any way, I need educating my ear and intuition, because I do not know much and am not able doing much yet. In this case, I’ll come to Kaunas as a composer.
J. P.: Does the fact of being both a composer and a violoncellist affect your creation in any way?
A. M.: I think it causes no influence. In the process of creation, the creator must forget the surrounding world – it is not important what you was (a teacher, a doctor or a musician), you are only a composer in the said process. For a creation, I need a certain environment and peace of mind but first of all – the internal quietness.
In general, I associate the creation, like also the life, with a way. I as if go in the unknown direction intuiting that the chosen direction is correct. While going, I meet other persons moving in the same direction. Then I understand that many persons walked along this way prior to me and many of them will come after me; however, the way seems to be endless. I still learn walking firmly, not brought by anybody. Most probably, the lifetime will not be sufficient to cover this way...
J. P.: You have created many music works of various genres; however, no scenic ones are presented between them. Why? Maybe, such an idea is included in your creative plans? As you say you wish your music speaking about human passions, ups and downs, love, death and friendship, impermanence and eternity. A scenic work, such as an opera, would be an excellent opportunity to express everything above-mentioned in one music creation.
A. M.: It is an interesting idea. I’d like try the genre of opera with pleasure - only a good libretto and a willingness of the performer to implement this idea are required.
J. P.: While describing music works created by you, musicologist B.Baublinskienė writes that you base your creation on the idea of “musical poetics”. How you can explain this statement? Does it mean that you identify music with poetry to a certain extent? Maybe you bear in mind the romanticized programme-like character of music that sometimes is prompted by titles of your works, such as “Footprints in the Sand”, “The Split Time”, “The Kite of Hope”?
A. M.: You should put this question to Mrs. B.Baublinskienė. For my part, I can say that my music is not programme-like in the literary meaning. However, I am glad to know that a listener envisaged a plot in them. With regard to romantic titles of my works, I do not place emphasis on them and do my best to ensure a reflection of the idea of the work by its title. Some composers use numbers instead of titles for their music woks, such as composition No. 5, 7, 9… or opus 132 and so on. Other music creators use neologisms created by themselves; sometimes the authors use Latin titles or – upon striving to distinguish themselves - any “abracadabra”. Maybe, they expect to intrigue a listener in this way. However, in my opinion, the essence and the meaning of a work do not lie in its title....
J. P.: Various sources point out that your music works include abundant grotesque and irony. How and why they appear?
A. M.: All the said allusions were created by musicologists. I suppose they appear because in the process of creating a chamber music work, I imagine each instrument as a certain personage. In music, - like in the life, - dialogues, conflicts, discoveries and losses take place. I create as I feel. Some persons consider my music theatrical and, in the opinion of other persons, our daily life is a real theatre. I think all of them are right in their own way.
J. P.: In titles of your works, allusions to creation of other artists – for example, “The Play According to MocART” (2005) may be envisaged. Sometimes such a juxtaposition with belles-lettres is not so evident: the title “The Loneliness in Pair” only partially coincides with the title of the piece “The Endless Loneliness in Pair” by Sigitas Parulskis; “Narcissus” – with the title “Narcissus and Chrysostom” by Hermann Hesse. “The Peak Hour” is associated with the movie of the same title by Brett Ratner. It is interesting: were such titles chosen randomly or you look for inspiration of your creation in belles-lettres and movies?
A. M.: Probably, theatre and good belles-lettres affect any of us in one or another way: for example, encourage analyzing the own acts and decisions, force to think about many problems.
While creating a music work, I do not place emphasis on its title – just a book is not read and a movie is not looked because of nice or impressive title only. In general, if an author in our times is afraid to use any word or sentence that was already used in another work, such an author will be forced to use only numbering. Titles of my music works usually reflect my mood or state during the process of creation. All the above-mentioned titles embody both the idea and the plot of the work. For example, “The Play According to MocART” was dedicated to an anniversary of W.A.Mozart; in addition, it was created for Finnish orchestra “Kymi sinfonietta”. So, I strived to form a playful “Mozart-like” mood. In “The Loneliness in Pair”, I tried to convey the sad mood of two conflicting substances, or, in simplistic terms, personages – a duo of a flute and a violoncello. The work had been created at a request of flutist Mariya Fedotova. Piece “Narcissus” for viola solo was created at a request of violist Alexander Zemtsov from London. Later this opus was chosen for a mandatory programme of the first round in Berlin Viola Competitions. It is a virtuoso piece where I tried to embody a self-reliant personage. “The Peak Hour” was ordered by Moscow Kremlin Chamber Orchestra for the concert tour in the United States. By the way, the premiere of this work occurred at “Carnegie Hall”, New York. Orchestra conductor Mikhail Rakhlevski wished an effective piece for the strings, so I created such a passionate composition on the base of a scale, in tempo of presto.
Generally, I think that if music does not cause an interest, no additional information, such as titles, explanations on the author’s intentions and so on can save it.
J. P.: What do titles of your music works reflect, what is their purpose? Is there an influence of the neo-romantic attitude?
A. M.: Each music work has a certain identification code, such as a number or a title. In my case, a title appears in various ways. First of all, the idea of the work is born, and then the means of its expression are formed. They insensibly require identifying the future opus. Choosing a title is also affected by the “purpose” of the creation, i.e. to whom the work is dedicated, and by a planned performer. It may be also affected by the environment, belles-lettres and other art works as well as the personal experience.
In my opinion, a title of a work not always shall precisely define the idea of the work. Some works have clear titles from the very beginning. However, I dare to say about titles of some other creations that I am not sure up to present time them to be only and correct ones.
It is good, if the title is helpful in formation of the mood of the work. I am particularly happy when a title does not deprive a listener of the joy of discovery and cognition. I think a listener discovers in music a part of the own soul...
J. P.: You have composed three symphonies with sonorous titles. They include “The Foreknowledge of You” (2000), “The Liberated Things” (2005) and „Grünwald“ (2010) dedicated to the 600-year anniversary of Grunwald (Žalgiris) Battle. Why namely this anniversary became an inspiration for the last work?
A. M.: I think the historical Grunwald Battle is cherished in the heart of each Lithuanian. For centuries, this Battled was referred to as “The Great Battle”. A victory over the elite and powerful European knight army seemed to be hopeless. Jagiello tried to avoid the battle; however, Vytautas the Great understood: it should take place now or never. If the Battle is lost, Lithuanians will repeat the fate of Prussians: the Teutonic Order and the Livonian Brothers of the Sword would finally occupy Samogitia and form their united army. It was my first work on a specific historic anniversary.
From my childhood, I remember the Picture “The Grunwald Battle” by J. Matejko. I could see it daily on going home after the lessons at J.Naujalis School of Arts (located in the building of Archdiocese), because its copy hung at Pacai-Siručiai-Maironis Palace (at present – Maironis Museum of Literature). Through windows of the school, we could see towers of the campanile with stars on them: at the monastery, units of the Soviet Army resided. During the 1863 Uprising (also named the January Uprising), a court-martial operated at the Palace. Its cellars were used as a prison. A.Mackevičius, one of the leaders of the Uprising, was condemned to death by the said court-martial. History of our nation and our state surrounds us daily, so we should only wish and be able to cognize, protect and cherish it.
J. P.: You have mentioned that the premiere of symphony “Grünwald“ should be very important for you. As one of the reasons, you singled out the fact that it should be your first premiere in Kaunas. Why the symphony itself is important for you? And why is important that it will take place in your hometown?
A.M.: Certainly, many Lithuanian artists cherish the idea to create about the anniversary of Grunwald Battle. I was not an exception, of course. In addition, the premiere of the symphony will be my first premiere in Kaunas. Usually, the premiere predetermines the destiny of the music work: will it be a single presentation or the work will live long and gain the own history.
I was born and learned in Kaunas, so this premiere promises me a particular joy and a great responsibility. In 1975, I graduated from Kaunas Juozas Gruodis Conservatoire and left for Vilnius where studied at the Academy of Music. I remained in Vilnius and reside there at present; however, I take an interest in topicalities related to Kaunas, I have there kindred and friends, so I know well its joys and problems.
And with regard to the genre of a symphony, I can say that creation of a work of large form is a challenge for me. The genre of a symphony is also an opportunity to accomplish something that was not accomplished (or is impossible) in the real life. Each such work is not only an idea or thesis expressed in the language of music, but also a document that – in addition to activities of the author – reflects the author’s world outlook, aesthetics, moments of success and doubts as well as the running of his creative thoughts.
The Symphony No. 3 is my newest work. Like my other works, it is my acoustic space where I am myself. I am not going to prove anything or impose my ideas on anybody; I simply create, as I am able, as I hear and feel. And I believe sincerely that the current music work will turn into a certain acoustic experience, the cultural field of music symbols that will affect the mood, the feelings and the mind.
J. P.: Thank you for the conversation.