About this Recording
8.573304 - SOKOLOVIĆ, A.: Folklore Imaginaire (Ensemble Transmission)
English  French 

Ana Sokolović (b. 1968)
Folklore Imaginaire

 

Ana Sokolović is a multiple prize-winning composer so successful that the Societe de musique contemporaine du Quebec (SMCQ) devoted its 2011–2012 season to her, generating—one might even say provoking—some 200 events. In 2012, the editors of the Circuit journal dedicated an entire issue to her (vol. 22, no. 3), something that only Claude Vivier and Gilles Tremblay had merited before. This recording is a musical exposition of the various reasons behind Sokolović’s success and popularity but broadly stated, her creative works are resolutely contemporary while still capable of reaching a wide public, without relinquishing an ounce of their authenticity.

To begin with, Ana Sokolović varies her instrumentation, which has the effect of renewing the listener’s interest in each piece. She writes for solo instruments: cello (Vez); E-flat clarinet (Mesh); piano (Trois études); for small ensembles: bass flute and piano (Un bouquet de brume); violin, cello, and piano (Portrait parle); and for all of these instruments with the addition of percussion (Ciaccona). Sokolović’s sources of inspiration are either poetic (I loved meandering in the fluid, evanescent mist created by the piano and bass flute—the latter rarely used as a solo instrument—in Un bouquet de brume) or humorous. Directives for the clarinet in Mesh: “shake; push; stop; rub; air going up” originate in the instructions for use of … an automatic hand dryer. The high notes on the E-flat clarinet lend this piece an unashamedly impulsive character without even a tinge of complacency, while the chiming of notes in different registers in the second part provide all the necessary contrasts. And what about the “douze tableaux synoptiques des traits physionomiques” (twelve synoptic tables of physiognomic traits) in Portait parle, outlining the various parts of the human body: Front (Forehead); Cheveux (Hair); Nez (Nose); Lèvres (Lips); Bouche (Mouth); Menton (Chin); Contour général de la tête (General contour of the head); Vue de profil (View from the side); Vue de face (View from the front); and so on, right up to the more general trait of corpulence? This work is inspired by a chart created around 1900 to assist officers in French police headquarters with the identification of human subjects! From this arcane source, Sokolović draws the details of the work’s development: descriptions of different types of ears, eyelids, chins, noses, etc. furnish the material for very short yet distinct musical depictions that are sometimes comical but always conducive to the listener’s appreciation of the subtle musical treatment in each instrumental part, which can also be particularly virtuosic (in Fronts and Sourcils, for example). All of this points to the composer’s desire to create music that is rooted in her own cultural context, since three of the works on this recording (Vez, Mesh and Ciaccona) are close in spirit to the traditional Balkan music of her origins. This having been said, Sokolović never falls into the trap of merely anecdotal folk music, but selects creative processes that she then transforms to make her own. This feature is undoubtedly at the root of her authentically popular works, and explains what some might even reproach her for. For the music of Ana Sokolović is positively and beautifully simple.

Each of these works employs modest instrumental means that enable the listener to follow easily their inherent compositional process. In Vez, repeated notes, irregular rhythms, and tonal inflexions on accented high notes form distinct and contrasting groupings that are recognizable whenever they occur, without sacrificing the necessary progression within the work. Mesh features the repetition and quickly-moving transformation of short melodic-rhythmic units. In each of the Trois études for piano, which are masterpieces of economy, a single aspect is developed (a rhythm, a harmony, a melody). In the first étude, a four-measure rhythmic paradigm is repeated nine times, spanning the entire extent of the keyboard; in the second, a five-note chord modulates as it migrates subtly through different registers, surfacing in a variety of moods; the third étude explores a unique fivenote melody treated contrapuntally and subjected to changing tempi as it is systematically varied with obvious energy. Ciaccona is an apt title: it is a sequence of eight chords repeated over and again, and thrillingly transformed each time in emulation of the prototypical chaconne. Certainly, the dialectic of (frequent) repetitions and variations enables listeners to trace the unfolding of Sokolović’s works, and this is reinforced by linear compositional processes and in particular, the frequent use of polar notes. Thus, the composer unleashes the power of universal traits that lie at the foundation of musical art. This, more than anything else, explains the resounding success of her creative works.

Jean-Jacques Nattiez
Translated by Rachelle Taylor, Le Trait juste


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