Life Art Music Writing

Salon at home

Last Sunday, my roommate and I started a salon series at home. Organizing stuff in New York is difficult, as things get intense and overdue, and you can always have as many troubles in work as in personal life. Luckily, a bunch of supportive friends and art enthusiasts never give up occasions where they can get drunk and shout out their love for the city, while the city becomes more irresistibly charming because of them.

The first salon was much simpler than what we had envisioned due to the limited time we had for planning as well as the doubt for the feasibility. The only performers we had for the music part were me and my roommate's laptop (on which a recorded live performance was played). Artist Michael Hafftka showed up in his casual denim shirt with a humongous amount of energy to be poured out from his creative mind. Throughout the salon, Michael went through all the facets of his creative process, from how to start a painting, how to pin down a title (in which his lovely wife Yonat Hafftka playes a big part) to how to interact with the viewers, he successfully left an impression of a Santa Claus... No, a mature artist who has a great positive vibe and as well as total control of his art world (which is that you cannot control...). As a music lover, he also shared his immediate reaction after hearing me perform the "Piano Sonata 1. X. 1905" by Leos Janacek as a game to compare the historical context of an artwork and the audience's emotional reaction. (Here I am sharing a great recording recommended by the intelligent and elegant pianist Lisa Yui.) When it came to music, we were so lucky to have had Lisa in presence as her broad knowledge made a much-appreciated contribution to the discussion. She could just call in Beethoven and Chopin when we dealt with subjects such as giving a title or to communicate the creators' intentions, and she would tell us what these giants in the classical music world would say about them. We had so many wonderful people in our apartment, and most of them came to hear my roommate Shiuan Chang's wonderfully unique composition. As the composer stated himself, he preferred not to give away the title before playing the recording because he believed "a direct personal contact with the artwork" would be the most genuine way of appreciating art. All these discussion led us to explore other media in the art world. We turned to the inspiring photographer Masahito Ono for his point of view, as he later recalled, "I don't consider any of my work original since all the materials and elements I use already exist." That suites perfectly for a pianist dealing with a musical score, and our discussion paused there, with me finishing the salon by performing Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy. We are all wanderers on the path of pursuing the art, aren't we?

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Milton Babbitt's Demonstration on Electronic Music

This is fascinating to look more than a half century back and realize that how much electronic music has gone through. In this video, Milton Babbitt showcased four different ways to either create or manipulate sounds. With each one, he played excerpts from the following works.

Pre-recorded Sound: "Of Wood and Brass" by Vladimir Ussachevsky.

Electronic Oscillation: "Electronic Study No. 2" by Mario Davidovsky

Computer-generated: "Mudgett, Monologues for a Mass Murderer" by James Randall

Synthesizer: "Vision and Prayer" by Milton Babbitt

Babbitt is extremely eloquent and clear-minded. He gave concise descriptions of each means, showed enthusiasm about the works to be played and answered the host's questions with wittiness and conviction. One of the host's question is a real problem, as he involuntarily relate the electronic sound to science-fiction film soundtracks. It is similar to people who relate classical music to bedtime music and serial music to emotionless creation. In short, it is a kind of prejudice. One does need to eliminate any pre-existing connotations if he or she wants to be able to understand or perceive something new. With the "bad habits of oneself' no one can embrace any changes, not to mention appreciate them.

However, Babbitt mentioned that composers who turned to electronic music were not interested in the new sound, but the possibilities electronic music could provide, to which I have a different point of view, as I was largely drown to electronic music by the sound per se. I remember when I heard Luigi Nono's "Contrappunto dialettico alla mente" the first time, how my ears opened up to a whole new sound world that is simply parallel to the acoustic music. I agree that the sound world is fundamentally enabled by the possibilities a computer can provide, but I also believe that more and more composers are now aware and conscious of creating their own sound, which is self-explanatory by listening to different electronic music composers.

Another point of interest is how computers and synthesizers looked back then. If I did not hear him talking about them while the images were shown, I would not be able to recognize them as something I could just click on on my desktop and start working with. My respect to the punch cards.

Consistency

The art of music is so complicated.

Recently, I have been thinking about consistency a lot. I wrote in an article that:

"After all, music is a kind of performance art. The key to a contagious performance is about focusing on it and believing in it. People may talk about the skills, but I value the consistency more. By saying that, I mean I care about the logic and sincerity behind the interpretation more than the skills. One may be skillful enough to imitate masters' interpretations, but that is just cliche, which cannot persuade me."

The same thoughts occurred when I was dealing with a new composition. I have always asked myself: "Why do I sometimes feel unsatisfied when learning a  travesty?" It is hard to say. Is it because I have a higher musical taste? Bullshit. What about the soul of a work? Not even thought of it. Then I discovered something, something really on the surface...

There are two things I cannot bear with when they are not consistent. One is the direction, the other is the dimension. Direction, meaning the flow of the music, which of course is flowing in a piece of music. However, the flow can be any kinds, any forms of flows. It can be smooth, arched, abrupt, segmented, arbitrary... Any kinds! But it is disturbing when a piece, especially a short piece of music is not flowing consistently. Dimension can include the density, harmony, technique or sonority, which are all very intuitional for a performer. It is okay when learning a difficult piece of music, but it is not okay when there is a bar that is physically impossible while the next bar contains a single note. The activities of music are like living beings, which have to be organic.

The direction is horizontal, while the dimension is vertical. It is almost like talking about counterpoint and harmony now. I gotta stop here.

歐洲行(一)

琉森音樂節

 來自各地的學生們

來自各地的學生們

兩年前在義大利短暫逗留後,這是我第二次來到歐洲。一年一度的琉森夏季音樂節在琉森湖畔舉行,而學院音樂節也在此期間展開。來自各地的音樂學生們齊聚一堂,在為期三個星期的音樂節內進行高度密集的排練及演出。此學院音樂節由享譽盛名的當代作曲家及指揮家布列茲(Pierre Boulez)創辦,主要專注於現當代的樂團及室內樂團曲目,并由Ensemble InterContemporain (EIC) 的音樂家們進行指導。同爲布列茲創辦的EIC是一群由當代音樂好手組成的大型室內樂團,堪稱當代樂團的鼻祖。今年受邀的指揮家除了EIC的現任音樂總監品撤(Matthias Pintscher)外,還包括柏林愛樂的音樂總監西蒙拉特(Simon Rattle)以及霍利格(Heinz Holliger)。受邀作曲家有陳銀淑(Unsuk Chin)和施陶德(Johannes Maria Staud),音樂家則有女高音漢尼根(Barbara Hannigen)、小提琴家五嶋綠(Midori)等。

若要我簡短地概括這三個禮拜的瑞士之行,我也許會說:累死啦!我果然只適合去阿斯本那種自我修煉的夏令營!但對於瑞士的所見所聞,我卻要說:它多少改變了我的人生觀。在這裡,我所接觸到的人文思想或許早有耳聞(或許充斥於微博旅遊文或文化差異討論中),但我確實是第一次接觸到。

我想先專業地探討音樂節本身,然後再進入旅遊美食人文等聽起來就使人雀躍不已的世外桃源。但誠實地說,在漫長的成長過程中,真正影響人生的多是在教室或琴房外的生活。當然把琴房視為人生的人們不在討論範圍內。(在排練時會有種錯覺,好像無論在紐約還是阿斯本還是琉森,那都是一個時空錯亂的禁區,而我們是被當成實驗品的人類,被禁錮在不見陽光的小盒子裡 

西蒙拉特

 陳銀淑作品裡所使用的道具。

陳銀淑作品裡所使用的道具。

在開幕式的當天,最讓人興奮的便是:今晚要見到西蒙拉特了!先不講我們才拿到熱騰騰出爐的陳銀淑作品的分譜不到一個禮拜,我更是對於什麼把銅碗投擲於琴弦上或是用撥子進行刮奏表示一頭霧水。但當到了排練,我對於自己所發出的可怕聲響真是又驚又喜。然而這並不是我想講的重點。

我想說的是,西蒙拉特真是有種特殊的魅力。在除了大家都陶醉於自己被西蒙拉特指揮了的滿足外,我們也同時受到他的耐心、靈敏與謙遜所吸引。

他的耐心體現在他的高要求。在對於一件事情有如此高的要求下,其耐心可見有多麼地持久。人們受到如此大的壓力下,不一定能立即把壓力化為動力。當要求未被達成時,他彷彿早有預料,一點也不當回事,繼續抓大方向進行排練,讓細節漸漸地浮出水面,到音樂會時,整個樂團已像是雕刻精緻的雕塑一般,有條有理,絲毫不亂陣腳。經過這段時間,我彷彿也明白指揮對於大局面的控制是有多麼重要的。當遇到排練時間明明很緊張卻還在強調一些細枝末節的年輕指揮們,我們也只能搖頭了。 

靈敏則體現在了他與作曲家的交涉上。 在雛型差不多完成後,他便開始詢問作曲家的意見。然而,作曲家多看見的是結果。這時就考驗指揮的洞悉力了!理所當然,西蒙拉特不費餘力地把作曲家的每一個期許化為了具體的指示,並且都有效地達到了作曲家的要求。這也讓一位銅管樂的朋友讚歎:「最奇怪的指示卻也是最準確的方法。」

當然,這一切是為了作曲家最原始的要求。他會這樣說:「真是辛苦了,但這便是作曲家想要的。」這又顯示了在作品面前他所表示出的謙遜。 

我在聽他排練另外一首曲子時便堅信 :他在這裡不僅擔任著指揮的身份,並還擔起了音樂教育者的身份。在面對這一群由各地聚集起來的音樂學子時,他或許也在潛意識裡有著教育者的期許?雖然他的指示總是簡單明瞭(又準確),但每一句話彷彿都可以寫下來並貼在琴房的牆上,成為往後在學習時的指南針。

例如他曾對我們的連奏感到不滿意。他對於連奏的要求不分現代音樂或浪漫派,儘管是充滿跳躍的一段旋律,也應當做到真正的連奏。 

他對於表演時的動作也進行了表態。他說:「如果觀眾能看到(音型)的話,它也比較大聲,比較好。 」此話的意思是,重要的音樂內容應該可以用動作表現出來,像是單簧管在獨奏時把樂器舉起來,或是演奏銅鈸時舉在空中讓聲音揚起那種動作。他接著模仿低音提琴手們在演奏極響顫音時幾乎要把頭顱搖掉的動作。「除了頭這樣動。」

對於演奏時的肢體動作自然各有所見。像我的老師卡普林斯基就反對在演奏時有誇張的動作和表情。「若你去觀察霍洛维茨或魯賓斯坦演奏,就會發現他們幾乎沒有任何動作!」當然,對於滿懷激情的年輕音樂家來說,要做到不動聲色也是不大可能的。或許西蒙拉特的觀點又更貼切一些:至少那些動作要與音樂有關。 

西蒙拉特所率領的音樂會座無虛席:大家都想知道大師是如何指導這一支學生樂團的。也只有在琉森,我第一次見到在演出新音樂後,觀眾鼓掌的時間能讓指揮緩緩地示意演奏獨奏片段的樂手們,然後又不斷讓漢尼根與陳銀淑敬禮握手。琉森絕對擁有最熱情的音樂愛好者與最開放的音樂喜好。 

 與陳銀淑

與陳銀淑

 與拉亨曼(左)、品撤(右)

與拉亨曼(左)、品撤(右)

 與西蒙拉特

與西蒙拉特

拉亨曼(Lachenmann)

而我又一次深刻地體會到了這一點。一個多星期後,品撤帶領著將要去德國巡演的學生們進行了琉森場的演出。當將近五十分鐘的拉亨曼的小協奏曲(Concertini)結束後,觀眾席爆發出了比起曲子裡大部分時間的靜謐都還要驚人的掌聲。每個人,無論演奏者還是觀眾,在漫長的旅途後都已精疲力盡,卻還是難消心中的興奮。拉亨曼被請上台,接受了與曲子本身同等量的、同時來自觀眾席與舞台上的掌聲。若不是親眼所見,我實在不曾相信現代音樂能有這樣的觀眾群。

 拉亨曼作品所使用的道具

拉亨曼作品所使用的道具

當然,比起拉亨曼的指示,陳銀淑的把碗丟進琴裡顯得太簡單明瞭了。在小協奏曲裡,每一項樂器都被賦予了繁複的責任,而每個樂手身邊都放滿了各種道具。光是我的道具就包括:馬林巴槌、槌子、鐵棍、塑膠杯、撥子、銅鈸。這些東西(除了一個星期前用了一下撥子)都是第一次出現在我的演奏裡,所以我完全不曉得如何使用,就連撥子的用法都不一樣。整首曲子由我演奏的第一個聲音開始:用槌子敲琴內的鋼板。這大概是這些道具裡最容易做到的了:不過是敲槌子嘛!但這第一個音恰恰是艱難的開始。

我拿起拉亨曼的私人槌子,在第一次排練時,輕輕地敲響了為期一個星期的緊張排練。然而,這個聲音不對。

拉亨曼走上前來,熟練的拿起了自己的槌子,先是解釋說每一個敲擊點都是不同的聲音,然後將左左右右都敲了一遍,並轉過頭來問我:「所以你覺得哪個比較好?」這一問,真是把我問倒了。同樣是敲槌子的聲音,能有甚麼差別呢?當然,細聽之下,在不同的敲擊點所發出的聲音不僅有音響高低之分,還有迴響大小之分、密度強弱之分、持續長短之分。但是他的問題不是只有這層表面上的意思。在整首曲子裡幾次的敲槌,他認為都應該有所不同。因此,他希望我能依照情境、聲響及結構來決定需要的聲音。在他的耳朵裡,槌子所敲出的聲音、撥子所摩擦的聲音、塑膠杯所發出的聲音都是帶有情緒的。那些「噪音」都被清楚地標注著漸強漸弱,所有的線條都有特定的走向。排練繼續下去後,他也對其他樂器一一做出解說甚至示範。

對於作曲家,記在譜上的標示與腦中的想像多少是有些偏差的。因此,作曲家對曲譜進行修改亦是司空見慣的事。然而當其修改沒有被妥善記錄時,往後的編輯者也因而難以達成一致。這也是為甚麼「原典版(Urtext)」在現在很受重視,因為其版本將所有有依據的材料都據實呈現了出來,使得音樂家們得以從中判斷(依據個人知識或喜好)。有些作曲家也不斷地改寫作品,像是李斯特或布列茲。在這種情況下,我總是偏愛最終完成的版本。因為如果我要對以前的作品進行修改的話,我也一定不希望人們再談論之前那個版本了。

而拉亨曼對他那些幾近炫技的複雜記譜法卻有著精準的控制。不像約翰凱奇(John Cage),拉亨曼並不把所需要的材料都清楚地列在譜的前頁。研究其分譜時,我和我的指導老師維沙爾(Sebastine Vichard)總像是在玩尋寶遊戲一般。「需要一隻銅拔啊!」我們總在排練時這樣驚呼。但拉亨曼對於所有的指示都瞭如指掌:當他示範起來,就像鋼琴家坐下來示範音階一般。

而維沙爾並沒有給我們示範音階。替而代之的是雙手的蕭邦練習曲。 

維沙爾(Sebastien Vichard)

2012年,我第一次彈布列茲。布列茲的音樂是我陷入現代音樂狂熱症的主因,尤其是他的第二鋼琴奏鳴曲。而我的第一首布列茲也絕對是和其奏鳴曲相同份量的大師之作:「樂句(Sur Incises)」。這首曲子的配器很特殊:它借鑒了「三(trinity)」的概念,使用了三台鋼琴、三把豎琴和三組打擊樂。而當時學習時所聽的錄音,便是EIC的詮釋。當然,維沙爾也作為EIC的一份子演出了許多次這首曲子。他也在「布列茲的一課」裡擔當其中一個鋼琴家。其作品改編自布列茲自己的鋼琴獨奏曲「樂句(Incises)」,原為一鋼琴比賽邀約的指定曲。在YouTube上也有維沙爾演奏的鋼琴獨奏版本

從維沙爾演奏時的毫不客氣的炫技、層次分明的音色及透徹的結構理解來說,我原本以為他會是個非常嚴肅及嚴格的老師。然而,在第一次見面時,他對我們相當地溫和以及理解。對於譜上一大堆的問題,他或是承認不知道、或是一邊笑著搖頭。

然而,在這個音樂節裡,老師的角色或許有些不同。這些經驗老道的EIC成員是為了排練能順利進行而在這裡的。對於鋼琴來說,非鍵盤的使用是最值得探討的。再來是有兩個鋼琴手一起演奏時所進行的排練,這時,維沙爾搖身一變成為了指揮,帶我們度過了拍號變化的雲霄飛車。他偶爾也會給予指法或輕響的建議,但總體來說,這些都是為了大家在一起排練時能夠順利進行,不要出現樂器本身的問題。

我們在排練貝里奧(Luciano Berio)Tempi Concertati時,讓人不解的事便發生了。貝里奧的曲子出名的困難,他終其一生所創作的「模進(Sequenza)」系列是分別給不同樂器的炫技作品,也是他探索各個樂器可能性的成果。在這樣的作品前,維沙爾竟然視著譜給我們示範了起來。我驚訝地問:「你彈過這首曲子嗎?」「沒有。」他聳聳肩,又給另一個鋼琴做示範。的確,就算彈過這首曲子,也不可能練過兩個鋼琴的部分。對於他強大的視譜能力,我感到驚嘆不已。他笑著說:「這是練出來的。」盡管如此,那樣的視譜能力還是令人望塵莫及。

 琉森音樂學院的琴房

琉森音樂學院的琴房

 窗外的琉森湖

窗外的琉森湖

有一次還滿早的時候,整棟樓裡只有一個琴房發出了聲音,裡面的人快速地操著一首又一首蕭邦練習曲。但總感覺怪怪的…原來,他把跑動的部分複製到了另一隻手上,而且還移調彈!之後維沙爾解釋道:那只是用來開手的,為了讓手腕手臂起到拉筋及放鬆的作用。的確,若我也要彈「樂句」那樣的獨奏曲,手沒充分地打開也是不敢練的吧!

之後在出海遊玩時,我們在船上也聊了許多。對於他如何畢業後留在巴黎高等音樂院教書,如何開始在EIC彈琴,如何佩服現在學生的機能。我心理想:在你面前,沒有哪個學生會認為自己的機能好吧!

(下集待續)

 我、維沙爾、Hazel Beh(另一位鋼琴學生)

我、維沙爾、Hazel Beh(另一位鋼琴學生)