a short email conversation between radu malfatti and rhodri davies (21st of october - november 10th 2008)

the group cranc (angharad davies, rhodri davies and nikos veliotis) invited radu malfatti to join them for a twelve-hour durational performance at this year's huddersfield contemporary music festival 2008. the performance is entitled ‘XII hours (for violoncello, room, hi-fi, trombone, dvd player, television, electric harp and violin)'. the event may include improvisations and performances from a long list of compositions. the improvisations and compositions can be performed in various combinations and/or simultaneously. the performers may choose all, some or none of the pieces and improvisational amalgamations.

rhodri: i don't think you are invited to play enough in the uk and your work is too rarely performed here. i am therefore very happy that you are joining us for this project and glad that hcmf have offered us this opportunity. would you like to say something about your pieces that we may be performing during XII hours? there are three of your pieces on our list of resources: claude-lorrain 1 (for trombone and sine-waves), the piece you wrote for cranc in 2002 dann klopfte sie lange beethoven and your new quartet piece written especially for this event northumberland 4. nikos is also keen to play your cd indiscreet silences during our performance.

radu: i am fully aware of the rare performances, but not only in the uk.

well, about my pieces, the new one "nothumberland 4" is very different to the older one "dann klopfte sie lange beethoven". in 2002 i had left microtonality behind me and was still working with chance operations. gradually i moved to a kind of stringent, yet quite open architecture of silences and sounds. for instance, there would be the duration of a sound - 16 seconds - followed by a silence of 16 seconds. then the same sound appears but this time it lasts only 15 seconds, followed by a silence of 15 seconds and so on till the sound lasts, lets say, only four seconds. then there is a pause of 2 minutes. after that the same sound starts again for four seconds, but one note changed. then the sound grow in length again till they reach the 16 second-duration. again a pause of two minutes and a new sound appears with again just one note changed.

so i am working a lot with perception and the thoughts behind. what do we hear, how do we hear, what do we realize while listening [and playing]??

nobody will hear the difference between a sound lasting 20 seconds and 19 seconds. but a careful and attentive listener will certainly realize: "...the sound seems much shorter then the ones before..." and the two minutes pause is just about long enough to keep the memory of the last soundings in mind and realize that this sound is in a way different. if you play the two sounds immediately one after the other, then you and everybody else hears the obvious change.

the piece i've written for sage gateshead worked along the same lines but instead of changing a note i changed a sound, which means: the piece was for 21 strings and all the string players never touched the string during the whole piece which lasted 76 minutes. they all bowed different places of the body of their instruments, starting with a very low sound, gradually wandering (after the 2 minutes silence) to a higher sound. at the end all the strings played a very high pitched sound.

the new piece is quite different though. even if i still use a similar kind of architecture within the piece, it sounds different because the musicians don't play the sound at the same time anymore. and the silences are different too. the shorter the sound gets, the longer the silences are and vice versa. so it's seems to be a much more open structure to listen to, but the underlying "strictness" is still audible.

rhodri: the configuration of music is clearly important to you: you studied architecture for a while and used the analogy of the shape of a building to explain form, material and structure in music in your interview with dan warburton. how do you feel about your pieces sharing time and space with other pieces and improvisations within the larger structure of XII hours? of course we have given much thought to our choice of compositions to make sure that they have a certain compatability, but what are your thoughts about other forms and structures interweaving with the inner logic of the pieces you talked about above?

radu: i don't feel like expanding too much on the difference between impro-visation and composition, it has been done over and over again. to some people there is no difference and to some there is an insurmountable gap in between. as usual, both sides are right and wrong. the question is not: "is it improvisation or is it composition?" the question is whether there is room and space enough to share it with other people and other musics!

as we all know, there are certain members of our society who are not able to listen, they like to talk and talk and talk and say nothing. same with musicians and composers, some are just too much involved in the competitional aspect of their activities. therefore they play and play: higher faster louder! the composers write and write: filling hundreds of pages with - what we used to call "flyshit"

of course i am interested in structures and materials - mainly in structure that is - and if i play improvised music i still tend to think or feel in certain kinds of structures. if i am able to work with the right settings of people, i have enough room and space to follow my own ideas and listening to their offerings at the same time.

i once had a very nice experience in the primary school where i teach music. in order to stress my point of what to me is a very important aspect in music - the listening - i asked the kids to pronounce a word of their choice: all at the same time! after that, i asked different students whether they understood a word of let's say this person over there. of course nobody could. i asked them to say the same word again, but this time individually one after the other. everybody could now hear and understand all the words and one girl even remembered almost all the words that were spoken. by the way, the title of the course is "sensibilisation of the listenings"

the other experiment was a concert in new york with my collegues jürg frey and michael pisaro. we all wrote a piece of 45 minutes and called it "three back-grounds". we worked at it individually at home and nobody knew what the other was doing and we were quite curious how it all would come together during the performance. the result was quite amazing, the piece sounded like it was written by one - to be honest, sometimes a bit undecided - person. but it was wonderful!

interweaving musics can be very exiting and satisfying, but you have to be with the right people together.

which, of course, is true for any situation.