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Already in Antiquity rhetoricians knew about the wisdom of silence, the necessity of pauses, caesuras and ellipses. They assigned a wide range of meanings to silence as the antithesis of speech. They acknowledged it to be a semantic, or semiotic, space in which speech can be articulated without speaking. Yet it was only in the modern age, with its deep-seated scepticism toward language, that silence was defined as a central place of reflection. Still, nonverbal communication has long been a permanent part of cultural and artistic presentation and expression. In music, on the other hand, pauses, rests, caesuras, fermatas – interruptions of varying quality – are essential. They have belonged to the temporal scaffolding of musical dramaturgy since time immemorial. When Gourzi speaks of a sense of temporal dramaturgy in her pieces, she touches on the art of eloquent brevity. Their melodic gestures are determined by the way she deals with pauses for breath. Often her music exhaustively presents a gesture, a moment, a feeling on a slender basis of material. Much of it distantly recalls Schumann’s Legendenton or the shimmering sound-surfaces of Debussy. Here and there we seem to descry glimpses of Schubert, Bartók or Scriabin. Again and again isolated lines surge forth like solitary flourishes in the handwriting of bygone days. By leaving behind her own traces she preserves traces of her forebears. Sometimes in music, sometimes in literature, sometimes in the form of a dedication, a direct reference to teachers, companions, patrons or spiritual guides.

Gourzi’s first piano piece, dated 1993, is a dialogue with an early poem by Ingeborg Bachmann. The recipients of her musical miniatures of 2010 are Helmut Lachenmann, György Kurtág, Peter Raue, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim and Dieter Rexroth. Assembled beneath the title Aiolos Wind are six personal encomiums in the form of a musical diary, six responses to encounters with the persons named. Her personal resonances vary widely, from gratitude (Raue) to a sort of belated reckoning with a received slight (Lachenmann). Now they focus on a question_and_answer situation in concentrated form (Kurtág), now on an almost infinite expansiveness in constantly changing metre (Barenboim). Sometimes the foreground falls on a transcendent sound of messianic force (Abbado), sometimes on a circuitous search of uncertain outcome (Rexroth).

Glancing up from her musical diary in this piano piece, op. 41, Gourzi looks upon her evolution, her influences, the paths that have led her to become a composer, conductor, professor, a founder of ensembles and an initiator of many projects for the communication of contemporary music. Her encounters are multifaceted, their consequences far-reaching. In 2007 she founded the network and ensemble ‘opus21musikplus’ to place contemporary music in the context of other art forms. In 2002 she established the ‘ensemble oktopus für musik der moderne’ at Munich University of Music and Theatre. Until 2007 she headed such ensembles as ‘attacca berlin’ and ‘ensemble echo’ in Berlin, both of which she founded. Recently she has approached the culture of her native land from a different perspective – a land she left in 1988 to study conducting and composition in Berlin. She wanders between cultures, observing how differently they function. The things she encounters on her wanderings, things both big and small, turn into musical ideas and compositions.

It thus comes as no surprise that her pieces often have extra-musical titles. In this way she provides clues, offering her listeners an antechamber before they enter the sonic space of the work itself. Each title points to the little story of an encounter, a feeling, a mood. Each piece can be heard as a resonance, a response to a moment. Gourzi responds with notes to the sensuality of the experience of an instant. The aim of her music is to allow it – the fugitive moment – to resound in a new, sensual space.

© Studio Svengali, May 2024
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