Tract-Act - Wojciech Ziemowit Zych Międzynarodowy Festiwal Muzyki Współczesnej Warszawska Jesień

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A topody for contrabass flute, contrabass clarinet, bass saxophone, and spatially arranged orchestra.

My interest in spatial music and bass (contrabass) wind instruments goes back to 1999, when I composed my Soliloquy no. 2. Landscape of Frozen Thoughts for bass clarinet and twenty strings. In that piece, only the soloist remains in front of the audience, while the strings are arranged topophonically along the side walls of the concert hall. Since such an arrangement of performers worked well, I took up this idea again in my Postgrammar by Miłosz for fifteen instruments (2011), and subsequently tested it in different variants in works for large performing forces written over the last decade, some of which, like Symphony no. 3, also involve soloists moving around in the course of the music. is led me to accept topophony as an element of the musical work. It is by no means an indispensable parameter, and I mostly discourage composition students from using it as a kind of gadget. For this element to acquire musical sense, it calls for a well-thoughtout concept of composition. It cannot serve as a mere icing on the cake. Topophony needs to be structurally related to the music and integrated into the work as part of its overall concept. Experimenting with this phenomenon has changed my thinking about orchestral sound and the possibilities of shaping it. I believe that arranging large performing forces around the audience opens up new fields for exploration. 

Topody is such a way of narrating acoustic sounds that takes place in the full panoramic space around the audience. It could be interpreted as Klangraumenmelodie (melody of sound spaces), a term derived from the German Klangfarbenmelodie. What is involved, however, is not the melody, but a specific and distinct form of soundplay in acoustic space. 

Whether this should be considered as a completely new quality is disputable. After all, amplification and speakers placed around the audience have long been the norm at concerts. I have experimented with loudspeakers and controlled spatial amplification since 2010, for instance in my Roundflow/Throughflow/Outflow for eight cellos, presented at the 2014 Warsaw Autumn Festival. I have realised, however, that our ears are too clever to be taken in by this attempt at acoustic space substitution. They can perfectly distinguish between a sound that comes from a specific direction and one that comes from a speaker. Speakers can certainly create a sense of spatiality in the case of computer-generated or computer-processed sound material. Nevertheless, the impression of acoustic instrumental sound reaching us from different parts of a full 360-degree panoramic space is something qualitatively different. What I like about this experience is its fragility and ephemeral sensory nature that cannot be reproduced in a recording or a radio broadcast. To experience it, one needs to be present where topophonic music is performed live, preferably in the middle of a concert hall. 

Topophonic explorations are related to my fascination with bass woodwinds, which have always been my dearest and best recognised medium. is results directly from my music education. The bass clarinet, however, which particularly attracted me after I had already received an MMus degree in composition, is an instrument I have never played myself. I do not personally equate the notion of a “bass” instrument with the stereotypical low-register sound. In the hands of an excellent musician, such an instrument can reveal its entire range of sound, which for the bass clarinet is comparable to that of a harpsichord or a concert marimba, and it can offer many other unique, highly attractive possibilities of sound, possessing inherent expressive qualities. And yet, just imagine this: the contrabass clarinet adds another full octave below (reaching down, like a contrabassoon, to the lowest B at on the piano keyboard) while giving up almost nothing in the upper register... Naturally, to paraphrase a wellknown proverb, it is not the instrument that makes the musician. I am therefore invariably filled with admiration for the sound and expressive power which Renata Guzik, Bartek (Bartłomiej) Duś, and Michał Górczyński can conjure out of the contrabass flute, the bass saxophone, the contrabass clarinet, and for their pioneering explorations. All the three have been outstanding performers of contemporary music for a long time. I am very happy that Renata and Bartek will have an opportunity to present their skills at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. 

Wojciech Ziemowit Zych