Ghisi: Two World Premieres in November

Ghisi: Two World Premieres in November

November’s going to be a busy month for Daniele Ghisi, with two world premieres: This is the Game, for vocalist and electronics, and La Chute, for string orchestra and video.

Daniele Ghisi will be the composer in residence at the first edition of the Rockenhausen Festival for New Music, sponsored by Helmut Lachenmann and organized by Lydia Thorn Wickert, which takes place November 1-4 in Rockenhausen, Germany. Several of Ghisi’s pieces will be performed, including the world premiere of This is the Game, featuring vocalist Salome Kammer. This is the Game was commissioned by the Rockenhausen Festival for New Music and Milano Musica. 

On November 30 in Saint-Martin-d’Hères, France, the Orchestre des Pays de Savoie, conducted by Pierre-André Valade, performs the world premiere of La Chute, for string orchestra, electronics and video. As in previous works by Ghisi, the composition features collaboration with video-maker Boris Labbé – this time with his interpretation of imagery from the Book of Enoch and the fall of the rebel angels. 

Here are a few words taken from an interview with Daniele Ghisi at the Rockenhausen festival. Edited by Jens F. Laurson.

This year’s Milano Musica Festival will feature the much-postponed premiere of Kurtag’s opera, 'Fin de partie', based on Samuel Beckett’s 'Endgame'.  When they asked me if I could write a piece to be performed at Milano Musica, they suggested something vaguely along those lines. Around the same time I got the call from the Rockenhausen Festival and I asked if they might not be interested in co-commissioning This is the Game. They were, and now the premiere will take place here in Rocken hausen before traveling to Milan.

Ghisi AEWT video image

Writing for voice is difficult
Writing for voice is difficult for me. Some composers feel that there’s an expectation of them to do something that’s never been done before and explore new extremes. Like taking a violin and then trying to make every sound with it, except the one the instrument was intended to make. I am very much interested in some ways of treating the voice that come from popular music or rock music than from the postavant-garde. I love Luciano Berio’s Sequenza III, but I think that that was an exploration, a study, and I don’t want to write for voice like that. The usage of a voice as an instrument has led to many important things, but I don’t want to
explore that part of the musical universe. There are lots of modern composers who found interesting ways of treating voice, such as Stefano Gervasoni, Mauro Lanza, Heinz Holliger. And one of my absolute favorites is Fausto Romitelli.

Things “push forward” by themselves
I think that there is some room to find a “vocality” when writing music for the human voice. It’s not about extending the possibilities of what a voice can do right now but about finding a perfect fit to represent a universe. I don’t think I am exaggerating
when I say that the Beatles are a good example for someone who did find a perfect fit for voice in their music. To me that’s much more compelling than trying to make it something “un-vocal” or trying to take a violin and trying to find the newest sound that can be extracted from the combination of wood, hair and wire.

Ghisi AEWT video image2

Composing is listening
I’m interested in “corpus-based” music … music based on a set of things. When I start writing, instead of just having a pencil and a piece of paper, and maybe staves on the paper, I try to have a digital pencil, digital paper, and digital rulers. And the set of things I start with is a huge set of existing sounds: Pre-made sounds, a database of sounds – for example 19th century romantic music.

Listening is a sensual experience
I have mentioned Fausto Romitelli. Let’s take him as an example. Such brimming enthusiasm about a composer suggests that one
truly enjoys listening to his work, not just admiring it for the technique or the particular skills employed. Composing and listening is not an exercise in appreciation of technical means or pushing the boundaries. It is ultimately still a sensual experience and about enjoyment and emotions.

Photo: Deborah Lopatin