10 June 2016

Martins Vilums: Aizsapnu saule

After weeks and many many reviews, I thought it'd be nice to reflect on a piece of music I have uncovered. I also thought it would be nice to discuss at Latvian composer as this Baltic blog has been rather biased towards Lithuania recently. Funnily enough the Latvian in question is currently based in Vilnius, and is lecturing at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (a significant reason why I found his music). 


Martins Vilums (1974) was born in Riga, where he studied accordion in the Medins music school before starting to study composition under Peteris Plakidis in the Vitols Latvian State Academy. After 1996 Martins came to Vilnius to study with Osvaldas Balakauskas, then Rimantas Janeliauskas. During this time his focus on the contemplation of time within music became particularly influential on his work. The approach to his work is best likened to sculpture with its meticulous attention and detail and the way it influences and shapes a singular mass into something wondrous. 


I discovered his piece Aizsap┼ću saule, as it was a new recording which popped up on Soundcloud. The work is for ensemble and voices and is, in short, truly magical to behold. The speedy growth of sound from a single pizzicato gives the sensation of a frantic energy, but due to the almost completely motionless nature of the harmony, feels in one place. The sensation is like watching popcorn pop in a bag or pan, each pop is full of extreme potential, but the confines of the container restrain it making it feel more energetic but castrated of its potential.


From this the rolling vocal lines and shimmer colours constantly evolve and drift in the space. The minute evolutions of string colours and give the music its fluid motion which lull you into a dreamy slumber. If my translation is correct, the title refers to a sleeping sun (Latvians feel free to correct me), assuming I am correct the fluid dazed nature of the music is poignant in this setting. The lines keep drifting, thoughts appear, and leave, and the listener can just sit and be still.

Not to diminish Martins's work in any way, but the rolling textures and gorgeous harmonies are reminiscent of the glorious Helena Tulve. Both share a glorious mastery of colour and juxtapose it with a profound straight forward melodic writing which sounds all the more ingenious because of its surroundings.


Aizsapnu saule, continues is growth and evolving, never resting but always still, the piece in its brief eight minutes manages to make you forget about time entirely. The piece could be an hour, it could be forty days, it could be twelve seconds, it doesn't matter because the time spent with the piece is frozen, almost pulling the listener away from reality so they can just sit a while and hear.


The whole work can be heard on Martins's Soundcloud. I would heartily recommend listening to other works on there too like his oratorio Aalomgon from 2006 or his Tvyjooran (2012). A glorious composer indeed and a great little gem I seem to have uncovered. 

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