Cristal Argento - a work for orchestra and electronic processes by composer Oscar Edelstein for Basel Sinfonietta
Basel Sinfonietta commissioned a new work by Argentinean avant-garde composer, Oscar Edelstein in 2010. The work premiered in Basel on the 24th January 2011 at the Stadtcasino, Basel, and then at the Franziskaner Konzerthaus, Villingen-Schwenningen (Germany) on the 15th February 2011.
The premiere was conducted by José Luis Gomez - who had just then won first prize in the International Conductor's Competition of Sir Georg Solti at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, and went gone on to be in 2016 the new Musical Director of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.
"Cristal Argento I" especially created for Basel Sinfonietta is a work for full orchestra with the electronic process of the Sonic Crystal.
From the Brilliant Surface to the Deeper Meaning - Hupango: Concert of Latin American music
Basel Sinfonietta premiere Oscar's Edelstein's "Cristal Argento I" in programme of Latin American music.
Pigarro Pifar (1953* Fontecerval BS): Mambo(lero)? for orchestra
Jose Pablo Moncayo (1912-1958): Huapango (1941)
Arturo Marquez (*1950): Dance No. 2 (1993)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959): Concert for Harmonica & Orchestra (1955)
Oscar Edelstein (*1953): Cristal Argento I for orchestra with live electronic processes, commissioned by Basel Sinfonietta (2011)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959): Bachianas Brasileiras Nr. 8 (1944)
"We wanted to make a concert of modern Latin American music with a proper dramaturgy. I had the idea to commission a new work by an avant-garde composer Oscar Edelstein as a way to go from a more popular first part of the concert, to a more serious second half, or from the brilliant surface to the deeper meaning."
— Thomas Nidecker, Basel Sinfonietta
Cristal Argento I by Oscar Edelstein / Basel Sinfonietta, released 28 March 2016
Crystal Sonic - Live electronic processes
In various places during the piece orchestral sounds are captured and processed using the "answer response" of the Crystal Sonic, a configuration that alters the sound and adds a special chamber and colour. The software programme was designed by the research team of Edelstein, LAPSO (Laboratory of Acoustics and Sound Perception), led by physicist Manuel Eguia, with mechanical engineer, Ignacio Spiousas at Universidad de Quilmes (Argentina) in the research programme of Edelstein "Teatro Acústico" (Acoustic Theatre).
Mauro Zannoli realised the electronic processes especially designed in connection with Oscar Edelstein, for the concert in Stadtcasino, Basilea (Switzerland) y Konzerthaus, Villingen-Schwenningen (Germany). He is a permanent member of Ensamble Nacional del Sur (founded by Edelstein) and also worked on electronic processes for Edelstein's work, "La Foto del Tiempo" (The Photo of Time) premiered by Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, conducted by Pedro Ignacio Calderón and with the participation of Eduardo Isaac as solo guitarist.
"The electronic part takes the game of the orchestra into another space, another world, another sound universe, like a dream, like a recollection, or how it looks through a kaleidoscope, a prism with various refractions. A powerful percussion mechanism was in action, concentrated beams of sound of stream over the listener. It is exciting to hear such avant-garde new music from Latin America."
— Roswitha Frey, Badische Zeitung
Oscar Edelstein was interviewed by Rainer Schlenz, a music journalist for SWR Studio Ulm for the programme notes entitled "Through the consideration of the Prism: Oscar Edelstein and his composition Cristal Argento I."
" All art is political ", said the Argentinean composer Oscar Edelstein (*1953), “and to be political in Latin America is a risk.” Many people died before and possibly will also in the future. An artist who does not consider this does not live in the present. Therefore, one can taste blood in my music - but I hope, also joy and luck." The political in the music of Oscar Edelstein, does not strike however in direct pictures or texts. It appears in subliminal form, as if one considers the reality of Argentina through a prism: The reality itself is not illustrated, rather it is broken down by the focus of the prism, and is transformed. With the help of the prism the point of view changes. This is the basic idea of Cristal Argento I a commissioned work Basel Sinfonietta.
Musical Action Painting
The piece is for full Orchestra and Electronic Processes. The electronics are like a transparency, a replica: they take the sound of the orchestra and afterwards repeat it - a renewed representation of what has just played, but in a modified form. Comparable with human recollection: It takes again the past, but filtered, changed, perhaps even falsified.
A musical form to explain the moment of the diffuseness, the in-exactness, is improvisation. And actually the sound language of Edelstein now and again is reminiscent of Free-jazz and he himself refers to the saxophonist John Coltrane. A passage of his new work, titled ”In Another World: Another Nightingale Making a Nest in the Wig of Voltaire“ has an improvised quality. In reality, however, it is about a "Quasi-Improvisando." musical freedom expressed, but notated. "I do not believe in the improvisation", says Edelstein, "however, I do like the contrast between the rational and the irrational", therefore the contrast between the fixed and the unplanned. "If your decision surprises yourself, it is also possible to surprise the public." Oscar aims at expressive moments which are used in the design of the Action Paintings of Jackson Pollock: produced with a certain force and immediacy and not entirely foreseeable.
The "Cristal Argento I" is continuous work of 22 minutes with four movements:
1) Colonial Organ Breathing
2) In Another world: Like Another Nightingale Making a Nest in the Wig of Voltaire
3) Colonial Organ Breathing Submerged, like in the Cathedral of Saint Monica of the Venison
4) Exploded Crystal in Perspective Impure Memory Navigates of Future Fugues
Oscar Edelstein (Composer & Pianist)
Oscar Edelstein is an original contemporary composer from Argentina. Known for his creativity and inventiveness, he is frequently described as leading Latin America's avant-garde, and as a pianist, conductor, and researcher, his career is characterised by breaking new ground. Born in La Paz, Entre Rios (Argentina), Edelstein studied with the leading Argentinean composers, Jose Maranzano, Mariano Etkin and Francisco Kröpfl.
Edelstein often works with some of Argentina's best directors on acoustic and electro-acoustic works for theatre and dance.
José Luis Gomez (Conductor)
The premiere was conducted by the Venezuelan conductor José Luis Gomez who in 2010 won the first prize in the International Conductor's Competition of Sir Georg Solti at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt.
José Luis Gomez is the Principal Conductor of the orchestral season of the Teatro Sociale di Como and in 2016 became the new Musical Director of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.
In an interview with Art TV, Basel, Gomez described Edelstein's "Cristal Argento I" as like a Picasso painting.
Basel Sinfonietta was founded in 1980 by a group of young musicians. Their goal is to bring exciting new combinations of contemporary music and works, both familiar and unknown, to audiences who are open to unusual sounds and experimentation. With its unconventional, provocative approach, basel sinfonietta has gained a considerable international reputation as a large symphony orchestra. It is the only Swiss orchestra to be invited three times in a row to appear at the Salzburg Festival.
When not taking part in the orchestra members perform as freelance performers in ensembles and chamber music groups. The group manages itself, which gives its members a high degree of self-determination both in artistic and organisational matters.
The live electronic processing of the orchestra is a world first. Edelstein takes his researches into the scientific principle of the Sonic Crystal which he and physicist Manuel Eguia have been researching for the last ten years at the Universidad de Quilmes, to not only create a software that reproduces the same resonance but to actually use physical structures that can acoustically amplify sound.
“Compelling Rhythms and Vital Sounds" - Cristal Argento I is a strong piece of new music for orchestra and live electronics from Argentina's Oscar Edelstein which the sinfonietta premiered. Rhythmical - multilayered sound fields develop like waves. Edelstein's close woven music, continuing the tradition of Edgard Varèse, has a force which gets under the skin with great vitality."
— Christian Fluri, Basellandschaftliche Zeitung
"This is a deeply moving work which is capable of setting new accents and making us attentive and critical listeners in a society and culture that are becoming increasingly mainstream."
— Alfred Von Thiele, Südwestpresse
Interview with Oscar Edelstein & José Luis Gomez
Reference Points for Extended Reading
Serious students of classical and contemporary music may appreciate some influential books related to the theme of modern composition that Oscar Edelstein has in his collection of reference points, including those that explore the timeless and complex question of how to notate music most effectively.
One notable example is Edgard Varèse (1883 – 1965) who was a French composer interested in the questions of new musical aesthetics and coined the term "organised sound" for his music.
According to his Wikipedia entry "Varèse's conception of music reflected his vision of "sound as living matter" and of "musical space as open rather than bounded." He conceived the elements of his music in terms of "sound-masses", likening their organization to the natural phenomenon of crystallization."
Conventional and Experimental Musical Scores
Serious students of classical and contemporary music may appreciate some influential books related to the theme of modern composition that Oscar Edelstein recommends on the complex and timeless question of how to notate music most effectively.
How does a composer communicate to an orchestra exactly what he or she envisions? Can traditional musical notation cover all aspects of what the composer is planning?
Gustavo Mahler apparently once said words to the effect of "you can put everything into a score except the music itself." In other words, all the aspects of a musical work are greater than what you can capture on paper.
In this sense the notation for jazz music has developed differently from that of traditional classical music . This was to keep the flavour of a live event and the value of concerts that would never be exactly the same every night.
To encounter and maintain this degree of flexibility, spontaneity and improvisation different kinds of symbols and notation were required.
An excellent reference point for traditional musical notation is "Music Notation in the Twentieth Century: A Practical Guidebook."
Kurt Stone has written a comprehensive and definitive survey of current notation procedures, whilst also touching on and recommending new methods for notating modern music. He integrates traditional standard methods with new techniques.
"Notations 21" by Theresa Sauer is a vast collection of notational systems with very different styles, approaches and philosophies.
It is inspired by American composer John Cage's Notations and features illustrated scores from more than 100 composers from around the world, including notable artists such as German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, and an American composer Earle Brown who established his own formal and notational systems influencing many other musicians such as renowned saxophonist John Zorn.
John Cage was famous for brining chance elements into his artistic production, in particular by using the I Ching - a kind of Chinese Oracle - as a means to make artistic decisions.
As well as his use of "interderminancy" in his music, he was one of the pioneers of using non-traditional instruments in his composition and electro-acoustics.
He is probably most famous for his piece 4'33" which defined as "the absence of determined sound" and as such involved the musician sitting without playing for the duration of the piece.
This was seen as radical in 1952 and caused much controversy, however it was at the heart of John Cage's determination to explore the limits and boundaries of music, leading him to collaborations with choreographer Merce Cunningham and artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Cage was part of an influential movement of artists who gathered at The Black Mountain College in North Carolina - a liberal arts college which became an active centre of artistic expression and experimentation. Other names such as Buckminster Fuller, and the artists Elaine de Kooning and Willem de Kooning are associated with the college, as it left an indelible mark on a generation of artists with a ripple effect for many who came after.
The first 'happening' took place at The Black Mountain College and with this a whole new sense of culture took place where none of the artforms were restricted by their normal definitions.
As John Cage was exploring the ideas of Zen Buddhism, his compositions took a shape that broke with many of the traditional expectations of classical music, and he opened the door to a multi-media and multi-disciplinary approach to art creation that continues to this day.
David Tudor was the first person to interpret 4'33" for the piano; in 2004, at the Barbican Centre in London, the BBC Symphony Orchestra made the first orchestral performance of the work; and in 2015 there was a Death Metal Cover version by Dead Territory from Austria that has wracked up (at time of writing) a staggering 700,421 views.
4'33" challenges us to listen more deeply, to notice our expectations, and to appreciate the sonic world that we already inhabit - this is the Zen koan that John Cage provokes.
The idea of aleatoric composition, unconventional choices and intersecting artforms was Cage's way to explore what it really means to communicate.
Cage's influence runs though much of the music we appreciate today such as and Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Sonic Youth, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Thom Yorke, Aphex Twin, Radiohead and Brian Eno.
Dead Territory play John Cage's 4'33"
Other Music of Oscar Edelstein
Photos used by permission of Deborah Claire Procter
© Deborah Claire Procter
Deborah Claire Procter is a multi-media artist from Wales who makes performances for theatres, galleries and site-specific spaces. She has received the Creative Wales Award for her work with video and dance, and was funded by Wales Arts International to make artistic exchange with Argentina.
She is a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of the Arts, and in a career that has taken her around the world, she continues working on theatre, opera, film, music and dance productions that present the opportunity to find wider perspectives.