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Pianolab 2013/14: Inner Time Spaces

Anatolian/Armenian roots and the music of Paul Motian, Komitas, Mansurian a.o.


Artists involved: (for exact program see events)

Vahé Hovanesian (ARM) – duduk 
taking part in several parts of the concerts


Keiko Shichijo (JP/NL) – solo piano
works of Komitas Vardapet, Tigran Mansurian


Harry Tavitian (RO) – solo piano
improvisations on works by Komitas e.a


Dante Boon (NL) – solo piano
works of Komitas Vardapet, Cemal Resit Rey, Anastassis Philippakopoulos


Tom Arthurs (GB/D) (trumpet), Stevko Busch (D/NL) (piano), Samuel Rohrer (CH) (drums), Jan Bang (NO) (electronics)  
On the music of Paul Motian, Komitas Vardapet, own work


guests: Rafael Vanoli, Bram Stadhouders


Concept: Henning Bolte, Stevko Busch



Musical Memory...

article by Stevko Busch



Hear Keiko Shichijo...



With Pianolab, Stevko Busch has, since 2006, been creating space for the most extensive variety of piano music, from classical to contemporary, both composed and improvised.


The new programme at the Gallery of Tones starts from and orients itself around the unique playing style and sound world of American drummer and jazz legend Paul Motian, who through his Armenian parents had contact with music from that country. Motian was a phenomenal listener with a deep musical memory, whose playing created, in a special way, open spaces in which he accessed and unearthed deeper layers of musical memory, such that sources could, in a uniquely lived form, take on a new character and a new purity. Western, African-American and Eastern sources came together here in a new way.


From this vantage point the invited musicians will improvise with Eastern and Western coloring, phrasing and timing. A crucial part is taken by the masterful live electronics of Jan Bang.


The program features three pianists in various roles. In his solo performance the Romanian-Armenian pianist Harry Tavitian will approach Armenian music from a jazz perspective. German pianist Stevko Busch brings together in his group the Eastern and Western ways of playing. From this kick-off point, this landmark, the musicians explore points of intersection between Eastern and Western sounds, and interpret and improvise with Eastern and Western colorations, phrasing and timing. Through the possibilities of liquefaction, repetition, deformation, and shifting in space, a key role is reserved for the live electronica of Jan Bang. The Dutch-Armenian Vahé Hovanesian represents the Eastern side of wind instrumentation with the Armenian oboe and the penetrating sound of the duduk, while the emerging British trumpeter from Berlin, Tom Arthurs, represents the Western side. And last but not least, there is the well-known Swiss drummer from Berlin, Samuel Rohrer, who, just like an electronics engineer, plays a key role in connecting and switching on disparate worlds of sound.


Dutch concert pianist Dante Boon and Japanese (forte)pianist Keiko Shichijo use Eastern sources in compositions from different periods.

As many as 30 years earlier than Béla Bartók in Hungary, composer Komitas Vardapet collected the traditional music of Armenia and put them to paper in compositions for piano, orchestra, and choir.  in her portrayal of Komitas´s Six Dances for Piano, Japanese pianist Keiko Shichijo breathes new life into the traditional playing techniques that the composer made use of in this piece.


"Under her hands, the instrument brought forth a purity of tone that was truly breathtaking. Her entire appearance breathes purity, as does her intensity as she is playing." (Response from the public to Keiko Shichijo)








Paul Motian: Musical Memory

by Stevko Busch, with thanks to Henning Bolte


Paul Motian was an American drummer of Armenian descent who died in 2011. 


Motian’s influence as a player and band leader is recognised in jazz—but he is underestimated as a composer. His works are performed only on the fringes by musicians, although in recent years this has begun to change.  Branford Marsalis was one of the first to perform pieces by Paul Motian without the drummer himself also performing (Trieste by Paul Motian, on the CD  Requiem, 2007).


His compositions are known, but musicians don’t readily play them. Motian’s pieces exude a deep-rooted peace and magic. Further investigation shows that his works appear to have important features in common with Armenian melodies. Whether he heard these melodies already in his youth, and later rediscovered them, or had this music in his memory and unconsciously recreated it, must remain an open question. For example, Armenian listeners say that well-known Armenian melodies are discernible in the pieces "Mode IV" and "Etudes". It would seem that Motian had features of this music stored in the recesses of his memory, so that, as he was creating, these showed through in such a way that listeners familiar with the source materials can make a connection to them. 


What interests me is how the diversity of the music that will be performed in this production is going to work as a whole. I want to convey the message that multiplicity and versatility should be seen, not as the one being more important than the other, but precisely as facets of, and variants within, "One World Music". There are indeed well-delineated musical cultures, but they are always fluid, flexible, and subject to an ongoing process.


Musical memory


Any creative process exhausts sources that emanate from the past, just as in any listening process one refers to these sources. This can be happen both consciously and unconsciously. Completely new musical ideas probably don’t exist. What can exist, at the moment in which the creation or the listening takes place, is a combination of musical ingredients that for the observer is utterly new (tonal material, instruments, voices, the performance space, where the listeners are positioned, or the function of the music). Whether anyone hears something new or something familiar thus depends to a large extent on their musical memory, individual or otherwise, and—for the composer or the improviser—on their curiosity about unknown combinations, or on the other hand, on precisely the need to interpret what’s familiar, perhaps with little individual variations and subtle turns.


The argument: We experience a musical performance as good, pleasant, stimulating, and successful when both familiar and new combinations of ingredients make up part of the music.


Different layers of musical memory


1.    The musical memory of a cultural group, which is expressed through a tradition (so-called ethnic music, and classical, jazz or pop traditions).


2.    The musical memory of the creative composer, which expresses itself through a process of reworking traditions, a reworking into something “new” or within the familiar set of rules. 


3.    The memory of the improviser, who, on the basis of sketches and core ideas, and inspired by the other musicians, uses his or her musical memories as a source for the performance.


4.    The memory of the sampling computer, which a) uses what was previously put on its hard drive and b) reworks material that was played earlier in the evening at the same concert.


5.    Finally, the musical memory of the listener plays a role, where the sounds are reflected and where they resonate to one degree or another.