Journey with No End 7:09
Cechove, mili Cechove - Czech anonymous, 1st half of 16th century
All Journeys by Jiří Stivín with the use of historical material.
Jiří Stivín - flutes, recorders, saxophones, clarinets, chalumeau
Alan Vitouš - percussion
Petra Noskaiová - soprano, Jan Mikušek - alto, Richard Sporka - tenor, Michael Pospíšil - bass
Marek Špelina - recorder, Julie Sukupová-Branná - recorder, Hana Fleková - viola da gamba, Robert Hugo - harpsichord, regal
Just as the title of this recording and article is ambiguous, so, too, is the music. It has at least two meanings, which is an advantage here. Old and new music and their usual confrontation, the Dialogo della musica antica e della moderna, as Vincenzo Galilei wrote in 1581, instigating a return to the exemplar music of the ancient Greeks, and his contemporaries in Florence brought Baroque opera into being instead. Here, too, are monuments hundreds of years old beside stunning contemporary music. They may, surprisingly, be listened to each separately or together. There are examples related to the history of Medieval and Renaissance music as well as the jazz and Minimalism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Ars Antiqua, Minnesang or Ars Nova next to free-jazz canons, including percussive sounds on the flute. There is serious music (from the times when it was not yet serious) and jazz (from a time when there was no such thing). The performers on this recording are specialists in authentic early music who play alongside jazzmen. There is suddenly metre in compositions that previously did not know how to work with it, new contrapuntal voices added to authentically preserved polyphony, drums in a cappella polyphony, raw sax with blue notes in the archaic organ of Notre Dame. Should anybody really dare to try such a thing today? But what else, for example, is the Cathedral of Cremona with its Lombard, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture all on one facade? Subsequent masters added other storeys to make new beauty and new experience emerge from the tension of the old and new. What else are actors doing when they perform Shakespeare? What else are composers doing when they borrow chants several centuries old (but, after all, the Gregorian chant borrowed melodies from the synagogue and even from Asia), and began to wrap them up in other voices from, perhaps, the seventh century? Take note, by the way, of the powerful attraction of the single drone of the bourdon. First, it was a matter of harmonies but later the nonmetrical chant suddenly began to squeeze itself from its essence into the Procrustean Bed of bar lines and accents. Talk about bold! The whole history of European music is this sort of commentary on the chant and its reworking. With independent melodies, texts and even languages the medieval motet commented on the cantus firmus, till the original musical and textual ideas were completely eclipsed by a new form. What else was Thomas Aquinas 'Doctor Angelicus' doing in his commentaries to Aristotle, but making a new philosophical-religious method which we call Thomism? Or the composer of the polyphonic mass, that is, music for the Church based on a secular melody. And suddenly, without offending anyone, the Missa parodia existed. It was not parody, however. Nor are Stivin's 'commentaries' (as he himself calls these compositions) making fun of anything. There is, however, a kind humour, which results from his ability, 'since time immemorial', to make jokes by quoting familiar excerpts, motifs and themes. It's an aspect he masters both musically and dramatically. He successfully employs three kinds of musical quotation: (1) as exposition, from which variations and improvisation are developed, (2) as a surprising cut or collage, (3) as a reversed variation, that is to say, a section where the quotation gradually hatches out of another melody or improvisation. As a listener your heart skips a beat when, sooner or later, you begin to recognize a well-known melody. With his quotations, improvisations and carefully thought-out compositions of various layers Stivin attains new forms of timbre, harmony, rhythm and meaning. Take 'Cuckoo' (track 18), for example, in virtuoso unison or stunning motor percussion. And, who today would confidently say that Stivin's current ideas don't resemble some ancient polyphony of improvisation? Stivin's music is not only ambiguous. It's not only music to listen to, but also music to watch. There are few performers of this sort whom you cannot take your eyes off during a concert. When you watch him playing, it's clear from his engagement that he is incapable of fakery. When he plays, he's living it.
The directions are easy; simply prescribe the required amount for yourself. Take any music by Jiri Stivin (born in Prague in 1942), preferably Cesty do hlubin hudební minulosti [Journeys Deep into the Musical Past], but it has to be played - sheet music is useless. Stivin is most effective live in concert. Neither the instrument nor the style of music nor the ensemble matters. Descendent of an inventor and an actress, he himself was a cameraman from FAMU. He plays everything and with anybody, though he has an uncanny knack for finding superb musical collaborators, ranging from the groups Jazz Q, SHQ, Blue Effect and Rudolf Dasek, Gabriel Jonas, Michael Kocab, Milan Svoboda, Pierre Favre, Alan Vitous, Vaclav Uhlir, the composers Ivan Kurz, Jan Klusak, Marek Kopelent, Milos Stedron, to Collegium Quodlibet, his own protean ensemble. You can see the music in Stivin's eyes, he's got it in his legendary cap, up his sleeve, flowing in every vein. How to take: for all sorts of melancholy, any aches and pains, as well as joy. Taking the prescribed quantities of Stivin should cause no side-effects apart from creativity, joie de vivre, a sense of belonging, optimism and a humorous outlook, together with full musical responsibility and artistic integrity. How much to take: To maintain sufficient levels of this important medication in the body the following doses are recommended: Stivin can be taken either a few drops at a time or by the bottle or in tablet form. Children under twelve, once every 4 hours. Adults once every 6 hours