20 April 2017

An Anthology of Lithuanian Music

A few months late, but I finally managed to get my hands on MIC's newest CD anthology. Its been a thing I am very curious to get my hands on for multiple reasons, firstly for the curiosity variety of composers chosen, the choice of repertoire, as well as also being curious to see what the curator was intending to say with the anthology. 

After reading transcriptions of interviews and the CD sleeve notes, Frank Oteri (curator) detailed his choices focusing on different elements and primarily wanted this CD to show an 'outsider' perspective, as well as being as 'democratic' as possible and featuring composers who haven't been celebrated very much, yet. 'Tis a noble endeavour indeed, but it is a very tricky thing to navigate. Firstly the simple semantic issue that the classical music industry is hilariously undemocratic, how can a CD address this? or at least manage to stay diplomatic despite of this? Secondly the issue of celebrating the under celebrated is also extremely noble, but the question that has to constantly be asked is why? Why this person? Why not a standard classic? Why not a heavy weight? So this all ties in to what the curator should be tackling in his choices of the CD production. 

From the many wonderful composers living and working today, Frank Oteri chose his 18 composers, 9 Women and 9 Men. The selection is as follows:

Tomas Kutavicius, Loreta Narvilaite, Antanas Kucinskas, Vytautas Germanavicius, Jurgita Miezelyte, Monika Sokaite, Linas Baltas, Lukrecija Petkute, Raimonda Ziukaite, Justina Repeckaite, Juta Pranulyte, Tadas Dailyda, Elena Sataite, Julius Aglinskas, Jonas Jurkunas, Albertas Navickas, Rytis Mazulis, and Zibuokle Martinaityte.

A truly curious rag-tag collection of misfits indeed. 

Now from a critical standpoint this is a rather curious circumstance, I can either point out my thoughts on every single piece included, or refer to the curator's own choices. I shall attempt to do a bit of both.

For me it is a joy to see composers like Raimonda Ziukaite, Justina Repeckaite, Julius Aglinskas, and Juta Pranulyte being celebrated. These four composers I find have something particularly special within their work, and all four are rather diverse from each other too. The future looks very bright for them, and this CD hopefully is a place where that can start.

Featuring Rytis Mazulis, Zibuokle Martinaityte, and Loreta Narvilaite, is more obligatory than anything, as these two giants have had such an intensive impact on the musical landscape here they had to be featured. The other works I have many mixed feelings over. There will be some profound reason why Mr. Oteri chose the composers he did, but I am really struggling to find the justification. Having listened to all of the works I struggle to see the attraction to some of them composers involved.

The other major issue for me within this anthology is it misses the sheer diversity within the Lithuanian contemporary music today. The CD is intensely dominated my 'minimalistic' music almost to the point of nausea. When in fact the reality is much further from that. Yes minimalism has a lot of influence here, but sonoristic trends, as well as growing influence of spectral trends are creeping into the works of younger composers that not really demonstrating them is a bit of travesty. There are also some extremely major names who almost have been ignored, without justification, which does cause me some mild concern indeed. The more I listen, the more the anthology feels a tad like an attempt to romanticise the region, with its lovely melodies, anti-institutional trends, and radical radical-ness. This romanticism isn't particularly new. Hopefully I am wrong, but I do get the distinct impression of it.

The biggest thing for me, is Frank Oteri missed a rather vital piece of the puzzle. In the CD notes, Frank alludes to Lithuania's past and briefly mentions Lithuania joining the EU in 2004 and highlights it as a moment Lithuania really integrated with the rest of Europe. This could have been a great oppourtunity to explore the influence of the growing divide between Lithuanian Diaspora and Enduring Lithuanians. As Lithuania, like many of its fellow comrades this side of Europe, has witnessed large levels of migration with people leaving to Germany, France, Britain and so fourth the musical landscape of Lithuanians is reaching a massive divide, as those who move abroad really tap into the cultural energy of their new homes splitting them away from their native land. A CD anthology which definitively celebrated 9 diaspora and 9 enduring Lithuanians would have been a much more fascinating exploration, mostly because it would have been able to highlight what parts of these composers still sounds 'truly Lithuanian?', what is the raw 'Lithuanian-ism?', does that 'Lithuanian-ism' still exist today? What does this spell for the future for Lithuanians? I am definitely far more excited about that sort of process than anything else, as I imagine it would really show us far more interesting things that just a straightforward celebration of Lithuanian composers.

This all being said, it is definitely a joy to see other people taking such an interest in Lithuanian music and long may it continue! I definitely recommend everyone gets hold of a copy of the CD to make their own decision on the matter. 

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