2 July 2016

Blog post of pure reason

After a week of allowing ourselves to have a breather and a chance to gather ourselves after last week, I thought it'd be nice to return to a familiar name to this blog to at least bring a smile to everyone. This has turned into a brief return to Rytis Mazulis. I sincerely hope for those reading this blog need no introduction to the work of Rytis (if you do, I must find a way to be more blatant). 

For those unfamiliar with the composer, Rytis Mazulis is one of the most seminal composers of the Lithuanian landscape. He occupies a fascinating space which tapping into intense intellectual drive as well as a complete rejection of the past. His music draws influence from the likes of Conlon Nancarrow, as well as having the same intensive microtonal obsessions of James Tenney and Horatiu Radulescu. Many commentators on Rytis's work label him as a 'super-minimalist', I have two problems with this title; firstly it sounds like a terrible superhero name, secondly because Rytis's work is intensively concerned with canons surely if he is a minimalist, Ockegham must be a minimalist too! Even though Rytis's music does show some of the habits of other minimalists, but to place him in the same field as them is ultimately wrong. 

For those who spotted the terrible pun in the title of this post, today's featured work is Rytis's 'Clavier of Pure-Reason' (1993). The title of this seminal work is an amalgamation of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier and Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure-Reason. This profound obsession with philosophy and intellectualism is another characteristic which separates Mazulis from the American and British minimalists who saw minimalism as an opportunity to renounce intellect. 

The Clavier of Pure-Reason is a very straight forward work. A humble work for 24 pianos or one pianist and electronics, the work layers many canonic adaptations of an original idea and slowly introduces into an violent haze before slowly fading them out. The result is a wacky, almost hyperactive work full of an oddly sadistic sense of humour. The complexity of the layering and the use of the piano has many similarities to Conlon Nancarrow, but to suggest this is pastiche of him would be shortsighted. Ultimately the Clavier of Pure-Reason is like Conlon Nancarrow on a cocktail of speed and red bull, or alternatively like listening to J.S. Bach while overdosing on acid. It is oddly familiar but oddly terrifying. A truly unique work, from a magical composer. Enjoy! 


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