Alvin Curran, piano (originally owned by Janacek), electronics. Gordon Monahan, digital performer software, native instruments akoustik pianosoftware.“Janacek Revisited, Recomposed, and Retuned.
In June 2013, on the occasion of the Exposition of New Music festival, Gordon Monahan created a sound installation on the grounds of the famous Villa Tugendhat in Brno, using the music of Henry Cowell and Leos Janacek. The choice of these composers was not accidental; Cowell highly credited Janacek’s music and also had the chance to meet him personally in 1926 during his visit to Brno. As Janacek passed away two years later, any further meetings of these musical giants could only take place in an artist’s mind. The first meeting was conceived in 1997 by Brno composers Ivo Medek, Alois Pinos, and Milos Stedron in their common opera Vec Cage (The Cage Case); the second, much more virtual meeting of Janácek and Cowell was arranged by Monahan in 2013 in the Villa Tugendhat garden through the playing of computer recompositions
of their music from the soundboards of two old pianos, used as loudspeakers, placed in the Villa’s green-yard. One piano broadcast altered compositions of music by Cowell, the other altered compositions of Janacek’s music via long strings attached to vibrating coils installed on the Villa’s roof terrace. Visitors to the garden could listen to the transmitted recorded recompositions blended with Aeolian tones, played by the wind on the long stretches of wire. Having replaced the “concrete” sounds of Cowell’s piano and Janacek’s speech tunes, the unpredictable, indeterminately induced sound of the transmission medium (wires) compensated the listener with the artificial digital sound of the source. The resultant sounds formed a music that sounded in accord with the cultural past, as well as with the natural present.
Alvin Curran’s attitude towards Janacek’s heritage was empathetic and at the same time heretical. On the one hand he generously accepted the “profane” sonorities caused by damaged pinblock in the Maestro’s piano, on the other hand he ignored the “sacral” atmosphere of the recording space (once Maestro’s home, now memorial museum) having comfortably accommodated his own music, composed as well as improvised, to the situational genius loci. Curran’s playing of Janacek’s old piano was one of those very moments which prove that authentic culture, especially live music-making, is always of a dialogical nature. The parallel dialogues that Alvin Curran simultaneously carries on – with the music of others, with his own music, with the actual surprises (events, environments, accidents, flukes) of life - bring him (and his listeners) to the thrilling crossings where he discovers, amplifies and re-structuralizes melodic landscapes and sounding environments. Glossing his work philosophically, it is hard to say whether he realizes the possible or he just actualizes the virtual; maybe he does both at the same time. In any case, and in this in particular, he feels very comfortable at the vital crossover of different traditions - he feels like a “musical Central-European”.
These two extraordinary meetings with Janacek (and Cowell) in the Maestro’shometown, documented on this CD, would not be possible without invitation of both artists to the Exposition of New Music festival. It is thanks to the open-minded festival dramaturgy alone that you can now ear-witness their inventive, versatile, and witty sound-making. Although to some listeners it may sound very distant from Janacek’s way of making music, surely it is not so distant from his extended sonorism. I am really very pleased to have had the opportunity to be there with Alvin and Gordon and to have witnessed how they cleverly “desacralized” the Maestro’s music.” (Jozef Cseres)