A Manifesto for the Quartet for the End of Time (Robert Jürjendal, Tõnis Leemets, Markus Reuter, Mart Soo) on #neuguitars #blog
I like to tidy up my record archive. I rediscover things I had listened to and enjoyed in the past, but then archived in a continuous stream of new arrivals and new music. In doing so it happens to rediscover fantastic things, like this cd by the Quartet for the End of Time (Robert Jürjendal, Tõnis Leemets, Markus Reuter, Mart Soo), released in 2012 by the independent house Iapetus. How could I put it aside ten years ago? This album is impressive, it sounds interesting and fresh even after more than ten years.
Why does this cd interest me so much? Because I think it’s the end result of a totally conceptual approach to music, a fascinating approach. First of all, this CD seems to be the programmatic development of a Manifesto. Arthur C. Danto writes in his beautiful book “After the end of art” that “The manifesto defines a certain kind of movement, and a certain and kind of style, which the manifesto more or less proclaims as the only kindof art that matters.” and this CD does not seem exempt from this type of narration.
Inside the cd, in fact, we find this text, which I transcribe completely:
1) Extend the moment by resisting the temptation to consciously entertain. For example, if something feels like it is going on for too long, make it go on for much longer.
2) Challenge the listener by using ambiguous harmonic material. More precisely, use modes of limited transposition exclusively.
3) Improvisation is not a valid tool to create something new. Improvisation may only happen on one of the following levels: rhythmic, pitch, thematic, dynamic, formal. Interaction guided by quality listening is not improvisation.
4) One musical idea per piece is more than enough.
5) It is pointless to give people what you think they expect. Honour your audience by contributing to the self-actualization process of each listener.
6) Allow the music to take on symphonic proportions. The whole is larger than the sum of its parts. Also, the part is larger than the sum of its parts.
7) Music lives in live performance.
Seven programmatic points. One for each of the tracks that make up the cd. In a sense, “Modus Novus” exhibits a modernist reality, a return to a time when each movement conceived its art in terms of a narrative of recovery, discovery or revelation of a lost or only vaguely glimpsed truth. This CD seems to support its narration on a philosophy of history that defined the meaning of history itself on the basis of a condition of arrival, identified with true art. A very different situation from what we are used to in our liquid days. “Modus Novus” expresses all this starting from its title. Its music seems to indicate that there is a kind of meta-historical essence in art, always and in every place identical, which manifests itself only through history. This would oblige the listener to an ahistorical reading of the history of art, in which all artistic expressions would be in fact identical. All art would be essentially abstract, once all the masks or the non-inherent historical contingencies are removed to the essence of “art in itself”. The music of the Quartet for the End of Time sounds, in fact, almost ahistorical, far from any current form. Cold, distant, cultured, absent from emotions and distractions of any kind. Strict and intellectual. “Modus Novus” seems to function as a “paradigm”, far from mimesis, from the representation of an environmental, social, cultural reality, implemented by pursuing at various (ideological, stylistic, documentary, etc.) levels the goal of a reproduction as much as possible realistic and impersonal of such realities. If the fundamental contribution of the age of Manifesto is to have introduced the philosophical dimension into the heart of artistic production, the merit of this album, so rigorous, abstract and concrete at the same time, is that it brings us back to that era for a moment. Robert Jürjendal, Tõnis Leemets, Markus Reuter and Mart Soo are four rigorous musicians, they knew how to create this album whose music knows it can hover in time indefinitely. In a Modus Novus, anyway.