Music beyond imagination - Ideas about composing and performing
by Rainer Bürck

I think when one has put such an awful lot of work into such a project as you did [Andrew Czink's piano project represented by the earsay release Escape Velocity (98002)], one should try to do as many concerts as possible. I speak from my own experience: several times I had to practise quite hard for a long time just to perform a piece (e.g. a premiere) as a one-off, and this is not the kind of thing I want to continue. Life is very short, so I don't see a point in working for months for just one moment. Ok, it is a different thing when one does his own project as you did. But still then... Apart from this, I think that a concert program needs experience which one can only achieve on stage and that it gets better and better if one can perform it several times. I am not quite satisfied when I perform a piece for the first time since I always know that I can do it a lot better after several concerts.

As to scoring your piece, I'd really encourage you to do so. Make this music available. I'd certainly be interested!

It is interesting to read what you wrote about rhythm, especially about speech rhythm. I didn't want to put rhythms down which are based on a beat, and you didn't understand it that way. I was just wondering how you worked with respect to this parameter. You mentioned Ligeti as one of the composers who had an impact on you, and in fact I was thinking of the piano etudes by Ligeti (do you know them?) when I listened to your pieces. Of course your music is different, but it is also slightly related to them.

You also played in a rock band? Me too. We were pretty much into Emerson, Lake & Palmer. That was great fun, and I still get a bit sentimental when I think of those days. Then the music of Stockhausen, Boulez, Xenakis etc became increasingly influential on me. Though my music is completely different in a way now, I think it hasn't changed in a certain respect. I still remember when I listened to ELP's "Brain, Salad, Surgery" for the first time, especially to the piece "Toccata", which was an adaption of the 4th movement of Alberto Ginastera's Piano Concerto. This music created an incredible atmosphere inside me which is hard to describe. I had never heard such a kind of music (since the music we listened to at school was the usual traditional stuff), and it opened a completely new horizon to me. And when I listened to the original version of this piece later, I found that the version by ELP was a LOT better. Even Ginastera admitted that THIS was actually how he had always wanted his music to sound like! There was such a lot of energy in this music, such a lot of pioneering spirit... I was convinced that this was THE music of the future.

And this experience created a certain kind of musical "vision" in my mind, a certain purpose. I don't know how to put it into words, but maybe you understand what I mean. Maybe "purpose" isn't quite the right term, since a "purpose" usually is something which is well-defined. It is more kind of a vague vision which propels an artist to move on and on and to create as much as he can. If there was a clear "purpose" to reach it would certainly be boring and he wouldn't have this energy to carry on. Maybe this is a "romantic" point of view, but I never believed in these analytic systems which musicologists tend to put up.

Even the music by the serialist composers (Stockhausen etc) was actually a product of this vague mystic vision rather than the result of the mathematical serial systems they put up to create their music. This is just what musicologists (at least the German academic specimen) don't understand. They are satisfied when they find out that the numbers work, when their analytic systems are perfect. But they never capture that the composer's intention is completely different. I once read a very convincing essay by Stockhausen. It was on the question why he used serial techniques. His argument was that one of the main aims of contemporary music was to seek new musical worlds which are completely beyond our experience. A composer shouldn't compose according to his imagination, since then he wouldn't create something really new. Imagination is based on our experience. If we really want to create something (radically) new, we MUST avoid this imagination and use abstract methods which lead to completely new and unknown musical worlds. This was the reason for him to use serial techniques. At this time serialism was just a method for him to achieve this purpose, not to put up perfect systems. (Of course it is another story that in the course of time the serial systems grew more and more metaphysical, no longer being mere tools to achieve aristic results.)

I had an experience similar to the one caused by "Toccata" when I listened to Stockhausen's "Klavierstück X" for the first time, performed by Frederic Rzewski. (Do you know it? It is a MUST!!!) This is one of the most virtuoso and thrilling performances of a piano piece ever! It is just incredible! And there it was again: this vision of a new kind of music which is absolutely new and thrilling, absolutely fascinating. (Another incredible piece is "Eonta" by Xenakis, including an awfully difficult piano part).

You are absolutely right: STYLE is not the thing that matters. I am convinced that a certain kind of musical "vision" could be expressed in completely different ways/styles and still remain almost the same in all of these realizations. I always wanted to create a similar atmosphere, a similar thrill by my own music which I had experienced in music like "Toccata", "Klavierstück X" (and lots of other great music, of course). And I agree that our aesthetics certainly are very similar. There is a lot I want to say about all this. Similar to you, I have a lot to say, which I will do in subsequent letters.

© Rainer Bürck 1998
edited by John Oliver

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