11 March 2016

Diana Cemeryte: Still

This week I am going to introduce a truly wonderful composer. Diana Cemeryte is a wonderful discovery I have made since I moved to Vilnius. A composer whose music is just wonderfully still and hypnotic. A student of Teistutis Makacinas, Rytis Mazulis, and Osvaldas Balakauskas Diana currently resides in Frankfurt.

Due to her study of gregorian chant and desire to not 'chatter' her music is extremely austere. The austerity is not a coldness or lack of sensation, but a chilled beauty like a singular snowflake. A snowflake is quite a wonderful comparison as the stillness is not just an empty space. In composers like Morton Feldman the stillness is frozen music moving extremely slowly, whereas in Anton Webern and Diana Cemeryte the stillness is extremely and elegantly layered. The fixation on gregorian chant and early polyphony means her work flows and moves seamlessly from space to space.

The music draws you in and forces you to focus on a singularity. As soon as you do this, you see how complex and sophisticated the construction is; like zooming in on a snowflake you see the symmetry, the skilled and perfect construction which was invisible from a distance.

The piece that first drew me into her astounding work was Still (2004) for solo piano. A work which in its seven minutes takes you away to something distant and profoundly mystical. The opening is intensely quiet, with lines bouncing around the highest reaches of the instrument. Notes hang in the air as the counterpoint thickens. Despite being so still and silent, the listener is frozen in place. You slowly begin to pick out small instances of the harmonic language, but due to the sparsity and modesty of it all these hints fall into insignificance. The flowing lines steadily pick up momentum and you gain the sensation of a rippling energy under the surface, like a river flowing under the ice.

The sensation of form has disintegrated in this piece, this isn't to say there is no form in actuality the form ceases to matter. The 'climax' around the five minute mark is striking, almost startling, and you calmly return to the meditative stillness and just follow the work to its end. The piece flows, the moment arrives, the moment passes. Once its gone it never returns, hints of a past are dropped every so often, but you just sit and watch the world flow by; like a monk meditating. A thought arrives and a thought leaves.

Such an elegant work indeed, you can listen to it here on soundcloud. I will definitely be on the look out for more work from this stunning composer. 

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