Two new projects by composer Francesca Verunelli - recipient of the 2020 Siemens Award and the 2022 Abbiati Award - are slated for upcoming world premieres. Tune and Retune II and Songs and Voices will be unveiled during the 2023-2024 concert season.
Songs and Voices
Venice provides the stage for the world premiere of Songs and Voices, a 75-minute fresco of sound for voices, ensemble and electronics. Here Verunelli explores, in compositional terms, the absence of singing and the vibrating, colored silence of the echo of an imaginary singer. Born out of an international collaboration involving Italy, Germany and France, Songs and Voices is commissioned by the Venice Biennale, French State, Ensemble C Barré, IRCAM, GMEM, Centre National de Création Musical de Marseille, Grame CNCM, Festival Eclat Stuttgart, and Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik.
The world premiere performance of Songs and Voices in Venice features Neue Vocalsolisten and Ensemble C Barré, and will be followed by French and German premieres, with performances in Paris, Marseille, Witten and Stuttgart.
The title of Francesca Verunelli’s 2016 work Five Songs (Kafka’s Sirens) for electric ensemble, composed for Ensemble C Barré, alludes to the Franz Kafka story The Silence of the Sirens, although the reference is not literal. In effect, Kafka’s story is not so much an alternative version of the tale of the sirens in The Odyssey, as it is the suggestion of a paradox, thereby raising doubts in terms of perspective. It is this aspect – i.e., the possibility of a paradoxical perspective – that the title makes reference to. What we’re dealing with is an assemblage of five instrumental “songs” that raise a number of issues regarding poetics. What remains of song once the voice dematerializes? What is the essence of song and how may we perceive it when no one happens to be singing? The presence of voiceless song is the driving force behind Verunelli’s exploration of instrumental sound, which may be likened to an instance of rhetorical aporia, in the same way that Kafka’s paradox is a pause for reflection, aimed at overcoming the limits of what should be considered instrumentally “visible”. Of course, the first question leads to further, seemingly inverted query – what is voice without song? Is it pure presence, devoid of its Orphic function? Thus, the voice becomes the instrumental body, the body of the musical work itself, a fleshy presence that precedes and vanquishes lyrics. Which is to say, a talisman that is at once familiar and unfathomable. The probing of this corollary aspect led Verunelli to add a vocal ensemble to this musical journey, lodged between the two extremes – total absence and unmitigated presence, voiceless song and songless voice. Perhaps it is somewhere between the two paradoxical focal points that we find whatever it is that draws stalwart Ulysses to the sirens.
WP: 27 October 2023, Venezia - Neue Vocalsolisten, Ensemble C Barré, conductor Sébastien Boin
Tune and Retune II
Verunelli’s profound dedication to seeking out new sounds finds fertile ground in her exploration of the orchestral dimension. Donaueschigen Musiktage presents Tune and Retune II, the follow-up to the symphonic ideal that began with Tune and Retune (2017-2018) and continued with Accord, Tune and Retune (2020-2021) for accordion and orchestra.
WP: 22 October 2023, Donaueschigen - SWR Orchester, conductor Ingo Metzmacher
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Tune and retune (2017-2018)
photo: © Rui Camilo