Constraints and total theater
This particular composition focuses on constant material evolution through microtonal deviations and research in “gliding” performance techniques to find new timbral qualities of sound. Passaggio III: Phantom is also a study in performativity, requiring several musical elements played simultaneously. The effects part of Passaggio III: Phantom is based on three basic elements: singing, striking/stomping the floor with the foot, and tapping the instrument with the hand/fingers. The performativity of the piece requires the performer to have a special kind of openness to experiment and attempt to overcome his/her limitations when performing / or failing to perform certain effects desired by the composer.
While respecting the fact that some performers do not want to expose themselves in this way when performing music, I am willing to allow for alternative or less interfering with the performer's intimate space, types of performance of individual fragments, which are going to be introduced below. Nevertheless, I always particularly encourage the performers to try out the performative solutions introduced in the score. They are the fullest and most powerful vision of what I had in mind while composing the work.
First, and probably the most challenging for most of the performers, is the request to sing. Instrumentalists are not used to doing so, especially not in a classical music setting. The idea of opening the mouth to create an accompanying to the instrument's sound, the additional sound layer, becomes a threat to the whole work execution. What is more, a type of vocal performance requested is also the issue for itself. I have based numerous instrumental passages in the composition mixed with the mormorando bocca chiusa technique - using a gentle, closed-mouth, murmuring sound. Murmuring is a quite intimate technique, silent and delicate; it immediately surrounds the performer with the wall of isolation; on the other hand, striping from any layers that could be created between the audience. This contradiction of action consequences comes from the conceptualization of instrumentalist in an acting position through metamorphosis and execution of atypical, not assigned to his/her role, commands in public.
Participating in many improvisation courses and fighting with constraints myself, I wondered which one is more difficult to do for the musician instrumentalist on stage - to murmur, sing openly, or rather scream? Probably each process causes its own challenges, and the difficulty level lies in the performer's ability to let go and free yourself from doubts and uncertainty, and of course, from the context and surrounding that accompanies the performance. Liberating yourself from the shackles of classical music's traditional performance habits on stage is the main research of the Passaggi series. The urge to create a theatre, a space where music, supported by the movements and actions, still sends the primary message through the music itself is my huge desire to achieve. This search for a new way of music delivery method in the classical music world is not an unfamiliar concept in many cultures' popular or folk music. Rock musicians jump around the stage in excitement, encouraging the listeners to jump with them; many tribes in Africa perform music in circles, dance and pray simultaneously performing several different actions; even the conductors show their excitement and engagement in the music by exaggerated movements and the need to free your body through the sound. Why not searching for this freedom in contemporary music? Many respected musician-improvisers in the contemporary music world, like Thomas Buckner, Roscoe Mitchell, or George Lewis, emphasize the need to learn the art of improvisation among the classical music performers. In my opinion, it has only advantages that help the musicians to become themselves fully on stage, without hesitation, anxiety, or for that matter, facing no constraints.
Voice and effect action in Passaggio III: Phantom is interwoven with the viola's notated music material, creating one sounding body. Leaving out one element of the construction makes a hole in the piece's timbral picture and formal shape. The opening mormorando on the note D, performed with notated in detail nuances of the viola part, gives even more significance and importance to this introduction, dramatically focuses the listeners' attention, and immediately puts them inside the narration of music. Voice oscillations between the pitches, connected with drone-like, slowly morphing viola cluster, like the one created in the last system of page three, focus on the timbral development of the performer tutti (instrument + voice) and again underline the intimacy of sound created through this moment. The last section of the piece, Improvisando: coda, is the structure, where the composer's imagination could not fall in order with the performer's requests, although I have really tried to keep to the rules I set myself before composing the work. I need to scream, and I need excitement and so-called "losing the temper" in the musical structure's final section. Violently screaming high artificial harmonic structure, filled with the rubbed string's sound, wooden noises and microinterval squeaks only asks to burst with the total emotional impact on the stage. This is the moment when the need for a total performer to be able to free through total theater on stage is crucial to the music of Passaggio. Not only the sound, the voice acting, but the impossible to notate in the full reaction of the performer's body in coming into contact with this situation take part in the realization of the work. As stated before, I truly respect that the performer might not be ready for this type of freeing music interpretation. Therefore I have described additional possible variants of performance for this particular fragment. It is up to the performer's subjective state of mind how much she/he can open up performatively during the execution of this fragment in public.
The other effect used in the composition is striking/stomping the floor with the foot and tapping the instrument with the hand/fingers, a specific dichotomy of knocking patterns and color ranges between them. This concept, introduced only six times in Passaggio III: Phantom, suddenly changes the specific of listening when heard. A tap - quite short, muffled timbrally sound, sounds like a surprise, definitely not anticipated by the listener. Five of six rhythmic figures of this effect are introduced rather in a lower dynamic, intend to blend with surrounding delicate sound material. The only distinguishing part in their usage is the shape of the timbre introduced that momentarily metamorphoses the piece's narration. I find these actions triggering the ear quite easily, preventing distraction, and tremendously opening up the composition's musical space. Probably the urge to blend the "traditionally" performed sounds and various sound effects through the part of one performer is connected to the need for expansion of the function of the performer towards gaining control over the all surrounding parameters of performance space that are straight connected to the closest surrounding environment of the body.