Speed of Truth - Miroslav Srnka

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The clarinet substitutes for the human voice, while the choir and orchestra stand for the resonating space. ese are the musical forces used by Miroslav Srnka in search of truth in our digital world. 

In his Speed of Truth, composed for clarinettist Jörg Widmann, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under Susanna Mälkki, the composer utilises highly original performing forces and spatial arrangement. In new music, various performance techniques make the clarinet into one of the most colourful and surprising sources of sound. Clarinettist and composer Jörg Widmann features in Srnka’s new work as an extremely inspiring soloist. 


Marie Luise Maintz: Does composing depend on developing new methods?

Miroslav Srnka: It does, in every case, because the way we work determines the results. For each new piece I must work out a new methodology. This is a very slow and painstaking process, but if I followed the same ways again and again, I would become set in my ways and this would be easy to sense in my music. 

The texts speak of truth. In what sense? 

I set out to examine what the concept of truth means in digital space. There are many short quotes and aphorisms on truth circulating on the internet, from Aristotle to our times. All of them emphasise only one aspect of the problem. Sometimes such citations are attributed to major historical figures, which is supposed to make them more trustworthy. There are also separate websites dedicated to finding out where those quotations really come from. Digital sources presenting those “truths about truth” are thus full of untruth. Another aspect that interests me is mutual trust between musicians, and that kind of trust that occurs between the stage and the audience. The entire history of musical settings of texts is based on this kind of “contract.” In my work, I aimed to show how relative the execution of this contract can be in practice. 

Does truth exist at all? 

If we had a simple answer to this question, our world would not be in such a pitiful condition. I frequently hear calls to “restore the truth.” But this is impossible in fact. Instead, we should develop new concepts and new spheres of cognition. 

What is the meaning of composing for a choir for you? 

A choir is something suspended between music and semantics. Some psychological tricks can effectively undermine our understanding of what music and semantics are. If you repeat the word “truth” frequently enough, all the confidence in the word is gone. Similarly, if a short text is repeated precisely and fast enough, it becomes music. This is called the “speech-to-song” effect. The stubbornly repeated claim that something is the “truth” is likewise a tool of propaganda, of winning us over for a certain “truth.” 

Please describe your cooperation with Jörg Widmann. 

We frequently met during preparations for the performance, and it was an exciting experience for both of us. Jörg is a composer himself, and when he talks about his instrument, he can explain in two sentences what whole books fail to explain. I feel genuinely lucky as a composer when, working at my desk, I “theoretically” invent a new type of sound on an instrument which I don’t play myself, and it turns out that the sound really works in actual performance. 

In your recent music you’ve been working on new types of notation, which leave much freedom to the performers. Is it also the case with this composition?

Working on this new piece, I have continually asked myself how to develop a coherent notation that would also account for types of sound nearly impossible to notate, which we worked out together with the soloist during rehearsals. This new notation would need to be comprehensible to an orchestral clarinettist as well. Another question: How to mark in the choral part consonants which belong to the borderland between percussive “beatbox” singing, speech-voice (Sprechstimme), and classical singing techniques? Still, the notation is only the surface, and the substance underneath is impossible to notate. The nearly complete certainty that all e orts to notate my music will end in failure makes my explorations exciting and means that they will never come to an end. 

(excerpts from an interview conducted in May 2019) 

The end will show the whole truth.
To say of what is, that it is, or of what is not, that it is not, is true.
translation to German and back
To say what is, what it is or not, it is not, is true.
translation to Czech and back
Telling what it is, what it is or not, it is not, is true.
translation to Czech and German and back
To say what it is, what it is or not, it is not true.
translation to Japanese and back
It is not true to tell what it is and what it is.
translation to Chinese and back
Say what it is and what it is not true.
translation to Japanese and back
Please say that it is what it is and that it is not true.
translation to German and Chinese and back
Please say this is it, it is not true.
translation to German and back
Please say that‘s it, it‘s not true.
translation to Japanese and back
Please say that it is not true.
translation to German, Japanese, Arabic, German and back
Please say that is wrong.
translation to Chinese, German and back
Please say that it is wrong.
translation to Chinese, Arabic and back
Please tell this wrong.
translation to German, Chinese, Arabic and back
Please tell her wrong.
translation to German and back
Please tell her something wrong.
translation to German and Chinese and back
Please tell her that there is a problem.
Truth is always strange.
Truth is the opinion that has survived.
The color of truth is grey.
Truth is always more colorful.
Truth is beautiful, but so are lies.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
Truth is so rare that it is delightful to tell it.
The language of truth is simple.
It does not require many words to speak the truth.
It takes two to speak the truth — one to speak, and another to hear.
Suppose truth is a [wo]man, what then?
Truth fears no questions.
That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.
The cruelest lies are often told in silence.
The truth hurts, but silence kills.
Silence is the mother of truth.
Truth was the only daughter of time.
Check the time from time to time.
Truth is good health -and safety, and the sky.
How meagre, what an exile -is a lie,
And vocal — when we die –
If you want to ruin the truth, stretch it.
Falsehood flies.
Truth is always late, limping along with time.
Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.

The quotations set in music were selected from the internet or wall graffiti. Where applicable, translations from original languages are anonymous. The translations and paraphrases of the motto, “To say of what is, that it is, or of what is not, that it is not, is true” were obtained through automatic computer translation so ware. The quotations originate from the following authors (in alphabetic order) or remain anonymous:
Aristotle Jacques de Biez
Lord Byron
Emily Dickinson
Benjamin Disraeli
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Baltasar Gracián
Chief Joseph
Friedrich Nietzsche
Edgar Allan Poe
William Shakespeare
Adlai Stevenson I
Jonathan Swift
Henry David Thoreau
Mark Twain
Leonardo da Vinci
Oscar Wilde
William the Silent