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  • Composer’s preface: At the Fringe of Our Gaze
    Photo: Schott Promotion / Astrid Ackermann

Composer's preface: At the Fringe of Our Gaze

On Sunday, August 18, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will give the world premiere Israeli composer Chaya Czernowin’s At the Fringe of Our Gaze. The concert will be broadcast by UNITEL CLASSICA. At the Fringe of Our Gaze will also be presented on the summer tour in Stuttgart (22 August) and at the Salzburger Festspiele (24 August). Here below is the new work’s preface, reproduced courtesy of the composer.

At the Fringe of Our Gaze was written for Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. This played an important roll in the way in which it came into being. I heard the orchestra and Barenboim in rehearsals and was deeply impressed by the energy of the players, by the way they related to Barenboim and how the rehearsal was conducted, from the music. On the music and into the music, not too much text.

It also seemed like many of the brilliant young musicians were not very different from the musicians who were studying with me at the time I was studying at the Tel Aviv Academy – in their approach to new music. They were amazing and very sensitive musicians to whom new music seems like something quite foreign.

I wanted to write something which will open the door for them into my world. I wanted them to be persuaded, brought into my world in a way which will enable them to experience it from the inside.

This was one of my first impulses, growing directly from the rehearsal, wishing to have these young people on my side, musically. This is a rare impulse in my compositional world: in fact a lot of what I have done in the past was meant to conceal my music from the ears of others.

In order to bring the orchestra into my world I decided to start from MUSIC, or what we usually think about as MUSIC, with melodies, harmonies, counterpoint, etc., and then gradually stop the MUSIC, peelings its layers away so that one suddenly faces what is underneath the MUSIC, what is the undercurrent moving in the air on which “music” rides, which is where my music really starts.

In this sense, the piece is really trying to make the foreign familiar.

Indeed it does it to such extent that the familiar MUSIC becomes estranged in the middle of the piece … because the music of the “underneath” was really put in the middle of the field of our attention. Thus, the foreign became close and acquainted with and what was in the fringe has moved to the center of our attention. These are two processes which have strong political resonances.

The piece is one movement of about 21 minutes, but there are titles to the various segments of the piece: Music I / Underneath / Unmoveable I / Horizon I / Music II / Horizon II

The soloists are not soloists in the regular meaning of the word. They are like the fringe of the fringe: when we listen to the orchestral material which is then in focus and we look at its very strange and elusive features, there is still something further away, tucked at the edge of where we can hear, and this is the material of the soloists, which strangely enough does show some “musical” characteristics. However in Horizon I which has only one pitch, a vast field is open, like a place which is so huge and empty, so that one can see for miles (maybe something like a stretch of a huge flat beach and people with their presences and feelings are not yet? anymore? there)….

Sometimes that which is tucked away at the very edge of our attention is the very thing which ends up having the strongest effect on the shape of things to come.

-Chaya Czernowin