26 August 2016

Observing Juste Janulyte

For my final installment before I return to Vilnius, and my final installment of composers featured in last month's BBC Music Magazine, I return to the wonderful work of Juste Janulyte. Those of you familiar with me and the blog, will know my great admiration of Juste's work. This admiration, is probably why I was not surprised to see her featured within the article. Her music, seems to be one of the perfect benchmarks for Lithuanian music within Europe. She like her contemporaries, Marius Baranauskas and Ramunas Motiekaitis (to name just two), aim to write a music that tries to address their places within the world, and not just looking at Lithuania to define them.

Today's work of focus is her personal leviathon, Observation of Clouds (2012), a work for choir, winds, and strings. This particular work should be viewed as one of her personal benchmarks, a truly defining work of her musical idiom. In the same way we view Arvo Part's Passio to be the first masterpiece with tintinnabuli, Observation of Clouds is the first truly monumental masterpiece of Juste's musical landscape. Admittedly this would be true, based purely on the size of the orchestration, the diversity of timbre, and sheer length of the work would make significant.

This being said, the sheer mastery of her technique does come to a particularly special pinnacle. The work opens with voices steadily drifting in, steady harmonics and slight swells lull the listener into a dreamy state. The heavenly voices of the choir drift in and mystify instantly. The gesture has the same power as the finale of Holst's Neptune from The Planets Suite, abstracted voices drifting like angels or a haunting spectre. The line between voices and ensemble is permanently fragile, at times it is like trying to spot the difference between separate plankton, so minute and incredibly small. As the work progresses we casually and freely drift to loud climaxes which consume everyone. The growth and diminishing of colours and harmonies leave you stuck in the moment. Just like staring at the clouds, whether they have any revelance or connection to the previous manifestations never matters you are simply struck by the beauty of it. The floating mass is gorgeous and magical, constantly playing tricks on the ears, and as soon as it appears, it drifts away.

The work shows the sheer magnitude that can be achieved from a simple idea like 'monochromaticism'. The subtle textural shifts, and seemingly static harmonies are profoundly used. Even though her output is still evolving, Observation of Clouds will ultimately stand the test of time and will be one of the most significant Lithuanian pieces for orchestral forces.

I am curious to see how she can continue to develop over time. After works like Observation of Clouds or her recently premiered Radiance it is curious to see how her can continue to evolve, but what I can say for sure if she works with the same intensity and focus she will continue to stun listeners for many years to come. Listen to her wonderful Observation of Clouds here on Soundcloud.

On Sunday I return to Vilnius and another academic year ahead of me. Who knows what other gems I will find, you will have to keep visiting to find out. Until next time! 

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