riss 1-3 - Mark Andre International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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Mark Andre carefully explores sound phenomena, frequently penetrating the boundaries of audibility in his music. About his work as a composer, he says: “I am interested in the problem of interspace in music composition, by which I mean spaces which are frequently concealed or extremely fragile, situated between opposites.” In his cycle riss (scratch, crack, fissure) Andre sets out to discover those spaces. A “crack” is a space “in between,” simultaneously separating and uniting elements which mutually belong with one another. 

Work on the opera Wunderzaichen (2011) took Andre to Jerusalem, where he met the theologian Margareta Gruber, whose essay Der Vorhang zerreißt (The Veil is Torn) and its interpretation of the double meaning of the veil of the temple being torn in two (in the Gospel of Mark) made a considerable impression on the composer and provided an impulse for composing riss, the piece which later became the central part of the eponymous cycle. 

The dialectic of closeness and distance, of God’s presence and absence in the New Testament, is, for Andre, the key motif of Gruber’s writings. In his music the sound similarly “fades” or “vanishes,” as he puts it, but is at the same time electrifyingly present. Faith is at the centre of his output, even though riss is not sacred music. The composer explains: 

Vanishing and fading are the fundamental categories in this music, in terms of concept and of the composition technique. I explore the music in the processes described by means of these categories, as well as what comes afterwards. I look for what remains, lingers on and can still be perceived after the disappearance of the sound, as long as we use our abilities and sensitivity courageously to open up to that presence. In riss this concerns all the types of layers in sound/time/action, as well as the typologies which organise the music, and the formal concept of the works. We experience the powerful revelation of the most frail and intimate interspaces and cracks. The categories of vanishing and fading refer to the double loss of the Nazarene Christ: on Golgotha and in Emaus (Luke 24:30–31), which attains a transcendental and eschatological dimension. 

Krzysztof Kwiatkowski