MOOS - Sarah Nemtsov International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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Moss spores germinate on the ground or wet stones, even in water, spreading their adventitious roots like rhizomes that also firmly fix the plant to the surface. It is the layers and rhizomes that give the moss carpet an appearance of depth, though in reality this depth is but pliancy, and the true growth is horizontal, along uncontrollably sprouting lines. 

Twelve instruments have been divided into four groups: a) a bass flute, a cor anglais, and a bass clarinet; b) an electric guitar, a harp, and a piano; c) a violin, a viola, and a cello; d) a double bass, a trombone, and a tuba. The percussion, placed in front of this ensemble, consists of a bass drum, a snare drum, a thunder sheet, and a tam-tam. They are not directly played by the percussionist; instead, each percussion instrument is assigned to one of the four instrumental groups as a resonator. Sound from each instrument is collected by mikes, combined into groups, and transmitted to the given percussion instrument by means of a transducer. The percussionist is placed in between. She or he uses volume pedals to change the volume of selected groups, zooming in or out on a given instrument, so to speak, as under a microscope. The percussion instruments are thus stimulated without being directly touched, as when one is treading on moss. 

Mikes are also attached to the percussionist’s wrists and three cymbals. Rather than conventionally striking the cymbals, the musician stimulates them with his or her hands. By moving one’s arm over the cymbals, one may check and explore the resonance and sound spectrum, zooming in or out. I first tested this technology in HAUS (2017), and later worked on it more intensely in 2018, especially in En face for orchestra, solo percussion and speaker. 

The percussion, which is often eminently virtuosic, in MOOS acts as a kind of “inverted soloist,” whereas the electric guitar, connected to its own amplifier outside the Moos transducer circuit, becomes a kind of outsider. 

In terms of composition technique, the various threads of music material are interwoven horizontally, and are at times vertically trodden upon—now developed, to be forgotten again.

With its carpet-like tissues and empty spaces in between, the moss geometry forks out, producing changeable, simple and complex graphs, the result of chance developments. In short, moss dissolves the memory of the place. Through the moss, the place is granted its forgetfulness as a vital power and a force of time. 

(Quotations come from Daniel Charles’s John Cage oder Die Musik ist los, Berlin: Merve, 1979:61 and 63)