What is the uniqueness of western music

nmz - new music newspaper

Against the background of ubiquitous complaints from the ranks of music teachers that young people lack “access to music”, Sáry's approach deserves special attention. Namely, he asks what “music” actually means these days. Can the music lessons, which are predominantly based on classical-romantic patterns, still do justice to the everyday musical environment today? Clearly not in Sáry's view. The path to impartial access to musical processes - whereby new music is no longer a foreign body at all - begins with a redefinition of the music itself.

The “creative musical exercises” result from Sáry's experiences as a composer, as an interpreter of new music, as a teacher (since 1990 he has been a professor at the University of Theater in Budapest) and as musical director of the Budapest Katona József Theater. In the seventies László Sáry (born 1940) founded the group “Studio for New Music Budapest” together with Zoltán Jeney, Péter Eötvös and others, which, in addition to the members' compositions, also performed many (first) performances of works by John Cage and Steve Reich performed. As a composer, Sáry combines the deep exploration of sound properties with a very “Hungarian”, spontaneous musicality. The interweaving of his fields of activity results in a kind of "universal method" with very flexible application possibilities. As a teacher, he tried out the different degrees of difficulty of his exercises with children and young people, with adults: "non-musicians" and professional musicians.

In line with the questioning of the patterns that have been passed on and learned in our Western musical thinking, which Sáry called for, the originality of a composition is shifted from the written musical text to the uniqueness of each individual performance as a "controlled process of chance" - also with the aid of Far Eastern philosophy. The term “instrument” is expanded by a multitude of sound and noise sources and the interpreter becomes a constructive co-designer of the current appearance of a composition. As a result of the uniqueness of the sound, music is defined as a sound process. The sound, or its five components - pitch, duration, strength, color and silence between the sounds - become the starting point for new musical creation - and also for the exercises.

Many exercises of the "Sáry method" train the feeling for sound and silence. I often play the following exercise, which Sáry also calls “Sound Yoga”, in different variations: “Choose a note, play it often, but each new sound should differ from the underlying sound in a certain way (identified by the five components) ! “The task can be carried out alone or in a group with any sound source, for example stones, with your own voice or on an instrument. With this exercise, musicians in the orchestra could, for example, establish the necessary state of “readiness” before rehearsals and concerts, reports Sáry, and experience shows that after such exercises one also plays works from the traditional repertoire in a much more differentiated, colorful and overall more sensitive manner.

In general, the exercises should also train memory and the ability to concentrate as well as making music together and the ability to improvise. On the basis of the “musical parlor games”, which, so to speak, represent the elementary level of the exercises, Sáry's complex “performance pieces” for ensembles emerge as open musical forms with rules set by the composer (“action plans”). The performance pieces are often based on a simple scheme, which, however, is fanned out through repetitions, variants or constantly new line-ups. The use of aleatorics creates unexpected combinations of sounds and rhythms, surprise effects and new game situations over and over again. For example, “Music for Bars”, which is distantly related to Steve Reich's “Clapping Music”, was written for three or four players or voices. But while in Reich the consistently counted rhythm material always sounds in the same form, in Sáry the internal organization of the sound process changes kaleidoscopically as a result of chance operations, i.e. as a result of independent decisions by the players. The “text music”, on the other hand, is closely related to Sáry's work in the theater and is derived from the possibilities of rhythm and articulation that are hidden in texts. As lecture pieces in concert, these games are also exciting to listen to and watch. However, active participation is preferable to passive listening. But the motto “Listen!” - the first of the Sáry exercises - also means a wide-awake state of openness, even listening to the silence. The “creative musical exercises” have been published as a book, but so far only in Hungarian and English (Creative Music Activities, Jelenkor Verlag, Pécs / Hungary 1999).

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