27 November 2015

Rytis Mazulis - Canon Mensurabilis

Before I start my usual ramblings, my brief absence has been the combination of having my first visitor from the UK and being knee deep in other tasks. It has allowed me to spend some time thinking about who on earth do I discuss next. It then suddenly struck me, it has to be Rytis Mazulis next. Having been in Vilnius now for three months, I have been able to see the magnitude of Mazulis's cult status. A quiet man, who is regularly found walking up and down the corridors of the academy, from my own encounters coffee is one of the main motivations for Mazulis's wanderings up around the academy.

Rytis Mazulis (1961*) when he was a student studied with Bronius Kutavicius in the M.K. Ciurlionis School of Arts, then went on to study with Julius Juzeliunas in the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. Mazulis is often described as a 'machinist' composer (not to be misread as 'masochist' composer), for those unfamiliar with the title; 'machinism' supposedly music which ultimately is very mechanic. Ultimately this is kind of true, but tells you nothing about what the music sounds like. I also dislike the title because of its use as an extension of minimalism. This is something that also misses the mark, a significant amount of Mazulis's music is canonic, ultimately a never ending canon, or a perpetually circling canon which is positively medieval, not minimalism.

Rytis Mazulis also often incorporates microintervallic gestures into his music, which is often used to blur the landscape or to simply distort the canon, but always producing hypnotic results. I remember just over a year ago Rytis told me about how when Horatiu Radulescu was in Vilnius, Radulescu kept telling Mazulis off for using microtones in the 'wrong' way.

 I digress, another element of Mazulis's music is the form. Ultimately in Mazulis's works, the form is in one direction, going from start to 'finish'. Inside the music, will be small evolutions and distortions, but never recapitulating in any sort of 'classical' sense. This combined with the hypnotic sounds is one of the many things that drew me to Mazulis's works, they hold you and simply are, there isn't any real extra nonsense on top of it. Any listener can hear the results.

The piece I wanted to show is 'Canon Mensurabilis' written in 2000 for the ensemble 'Ensemble Court-Circuit'. Like the medieval canon, the work is focused on a canon with different voices moving at different speeds. But on top of this Mazulis has some fun fluctuations and distortions running at the same time. Firstly the beat patterns change in patterns of:
(12-6) (10-5) (8-4) (6-3) (4-2) (3-6) (4-8) (5-10) (12-6) (10-5) (8-4) (6-3) (4-2)

This irregular pulsing ultimately distorts all sensation of rhythm as the predictability is constantly distorted. The semi-quaver pulse in the piano feels unrelenting and constant. On top of this the use of microintervals also distorts the soundscape. The piano from C3-B4 are tuned a quarter down. C4-C5 are unchanged, and C#5-C#6 are tuned a quarter up. On top of this the violin and flute (who are with C#5-C#6) play a quarter tone, the clarinet and viola do not play microintervals. The cello (who is within C3-B4) plays a quarter tone up. This combination of microintervals produces 'out of tune' semitonal clashes, which resolve. But always circling. The result is hypnotic and mind boggling, if 60s hippie bands had access to this instead of the sitar they would have had their brains fried.

But enough chit-chat here is the piece:

 Until next time. 

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