Interview with Marios Joannou Elia (March 2019)
Welcome back to Neuguitars! In our last interview in September 2016 we talked about compositions and guitars – have you composed any new pieces for guitars?
As part of “Sound of Kyoto” I have composed a piece for mandolin orchestra, in which a guitar ensemble is incorporated. In addition, an ensemble for soprano, shinobue, melodica, mandolin and guitar, and a duet for soprano and chapman stick. The latter belongs to the guitar family and it is usually played by tapping the strings.
I am currently working on a new work for soprano and six guitars. It is a commission of the Passauer Saiten International Guitar Festival in Germany. Its premiere by Gunnar Berg Ensemble Salzburg is on March 21, 2019.
You are active internationally – can you tell us about your latest works in Russia and Japan?
I have been working in Russia for two years now. Last June there was the premiere of the naval symphony “Varyag” by soloists of Mariinsky Theatre and Primorskaya Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and Academic Choir of Far Eastern Federal University. It was a commission of the Primorskaya Regional Philharmonic Society in honour of the cruiser Varyag and Russia’s Pacific Fleet, celeberating 80 years of Primorsky Krai. A Russian documentary film is currently in production regarding its making of.
In December 2017 there was the premiere of “Sound of Vladivostok”, a musical work that is being presented through the medium of film and in which 350 musicians took part, including a symphony orchestra, choirs, drum ensembles and traditional instruments. The concept is to musicalise the entire city, using a variety of spots and spaces as sceneries for the musical performance, at the same time, for recording characteristic sounds representative to the city. The final result is a film in dolby atmos surround sound technology. The Russia media praised it for being “the new anthem” of the city.
Since January 2018 I have been working on the preparations of “Sound of Kyoto” after an invitation of the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Government of Japan, the City of Kyoto and Kyoto Art Centre. Since the beginning of September, its implementation across the Kansai region takes place. Over 560 musicians participated, including two symphony orchestras, choirs, traditional Japanese instruments and taikos, as well as dancers and electronic instruments.
Your book entitled “The Concept of Polymediality” is recently published by Schott. How did the idea began, to write this book?
In 2003 I was invited to compose a work for the space of the Volkswagen Transparent Factory in Dresden. It was within the potential of such a performance space that gave me ideas for the new composition – its architecture, its acoustic quality, the immanent elements that could be exploited musically in addition to the dramaturgical setting of the instrumentalists, singers, choir and conductor during the production of the music. Also, there were technical complications, like the co-ordination of all what was happening, since a conductor alone was not able to be perceived by everyone. This experience became the initiating point of the concept of polymediality, developing it in a theoretical, analytical, hermeneutic and aesthetic way. Emphasis is given to a qualitative rather than a quantitative synergetic interaction of non-musical elements and art forms with the music.
In this book you talk and explain your ideas about your use of several media possibilities to create music. You give a lot of concrete examples, mixing together musical elements, electronic and artificial sounds, media, theater and visual components. Is your aesthetic a sort of a new musical theater or is it more a “global” vision of our world?
It is a consequence of the methodology implied to realise each work’s vision – with its own challenging subject and approach, often an unconventional one. Therefore, in order to implement the idea, it is essential to establish a clear tactic and take advantage of various traditional or contemporary and new-invented tools, as well as a hybridism of them. In several works this tactic was innovative because there was not any previous practice – this was the case in Dresden, at the opera “Die Jagd” in Stuttgart, the “Autosymphonic” in Mannheim, recently in Vladivostok and Kyoto, but also at solely musical works such as the guitar quartet “Staubzucker”.
The involvement of technology depends on the nature of the work envisioned. It has various applications – for the implementation of the composition or as an immanent element of it. Sometimes it is offered to me as an exclusive framework of exploration and exploitation, like the “half one” speakers, as part of “Sound of Kyoto”. At other occasions, it is necessary to invent own technological methods and devices, so as to effectively realise the work’s intention. It is to point out, nevertheless, that I also compose works without any involvement of technology, that is, for a classical context and a concert hall.
Do you think that noise is a sort of “color” for your Polymediality?
As soon as noise or any other element is placed into an intended, devised structure and timeline of events, it becomes meaningful. Polymediality encompasses every component, often of heterogeneous quality, that contributes to the “polyphonic” setting of the music, not necessarily vertically, but also horizontally. That is why “polymediality” and its prefix “poly” is associated with musical terms like “polyphony”, “polytonality”, or “polyrhythmic”.
Is the media the message or breaking the code would be the message?
As far as the content makes sense, and its sense is a consequence of its aesthetic formation; this is of significance.
What are your next projects in 2019?
A large-scale concerto for trumpet, symphony orchestra and choir. It is a commission of the Pannon Philharmonic and the Kodály Centre in Hungary. Its premiere is planned for September 1, 2019 – the celebration of the “Day of the City of Pecs”.
It follows a commission by Mandarin Electron, together with the Japanese and Russian Theremin Schools, to compose the 100th anniversary work for celebrating the invention of the theremin. Within this framework, a new Guinness World Record for the largest matryomin ensemble will be attempted. It will take place in Kobe, Japan.