Luigi Nono – La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura

Posted on February 5th, 2015 by


Rehearsing Nonp 22 2 15

Rehearsing Nonp 22 2 15

Luigi Nono-La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura
Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Amati 1629), Electronics-Tom Mudd
February 22nd 2015 (Great Hall, Goldsmiths College, london)

This will not be a 'normal' performance, it seems to me. The 'cantando con voce' which is all over the score, and the pointing at text, has unleashed a flood of influences, which may, or may not become audible, including Boiardo, Walpole, Dee, Colonna, Tasso, Racine....'the door on the left hand, the distance'...(Horace Walpole 'Castle of Otranto') Peter in a field in Bavaria (long time ago) Photo Bernd Noelle

This was no  ‘normal’ performance, it seems to me. The ‘cantando con voce’ which is all over the score, and the pointing at text,  unleashed a flood of influences, which may, or may not be audible, including Boiardo, Walpole, Dee, Colonna, Tasso, Racine….’the door on the left hand, the distance’…(Horace Walpole ‘Castle of Otranto’)
Peter in a field in Bavaria (long time ago) Photo Bernd Noelle

 

Nono becomes encrusted, plus some help from a Geode from the Sierra Madre 5 2 15

Nono becomes encrusted, plus some help from a Geode from the Sierra Madre 5 2 15

 

 

 

Logging the days up to the 2015 performance

7th February (Captain’s log)…over the past week, I have become more fascinated by the layerings, which the provisional nature of this piece challenges me to make. As you can see from the page above, this initially took the form of texts which started to ‘float’ towards the piece, and in one case, texts buried in images in another text, the extraordinary 1504 Hypnertomachia Polyphiliae  by Colonna, which lead me to Boaiardo, to T H White, to Marx, to Aesop, to a 12th Century Bestiary, to Hegel, to the Psalms, to Tartini, to Dr Dee, to Horace Walpole .. answering the implied question in Nono’s ‘cantando dolcissimo con voce dove possibile’… . The question being ‘Sing what?’ (I won’t sing ‘ooh’ or ‘mm’)

Progess...7 2 15

Progess…7 2 15

I was back in New York City. Winter had come late to the East coast, but it had arrived with fury. The bitter cold matched my mood; I was in back in the city for my friend, the poet Guy Gallo, who had died a month earlier, after a year-long fight with cancer. So I was here to sit with his family, and to play his memorial at Barnard, and to walk. With me, to practise, and to perform, hard on my return to London, was a walking violin piece which I had put off playing for two decades. Luigi Nono’s final work La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica. It matched my mood perfectly; unsustainable, impoverished lyricism in a desolate, intimidating landscape. And, like Philip Glass’s Strung Out, or Jim Aitchison’s Shibboleth, the violinist walks, in this case, amidst a forest of music stands. I had been hunting for the landscape in which to place this piece, a ‘Silva oscura’ in which it might happen, for a number of weeks. My score had become encrusted with images and writing, from Marx to Colonna, as a scrabbled fruitlessly for handhold, for purchase. Midwinter on Manhattan offered clarity, if not solace.

Ice. Central Park 16 2 15

Ice. Central Park 16 2 15

So many paths which we tread are conversation, discourse, with friends, lovers, spouses, with our children. They are all temporal, temporary. They all end. And we learn, bitterly, or sweetly, that there is no ideal ratio of intensity to importance, which might yield significance. I had tracked nearly two decades of conversation with my friend, Guy, 19 years colloquy, about poetry, music, architecture, history, writing, and the unanswerable question, of how to be, as an artist. It seemed that Guy was just about to find an answer, and then he was taken.

Pathway 16 3 15

Pathway 16 3 15

Early each morning, I set out to walk the long way, around Central Park, from West to Eastside, but around the circumference, , with Christina Rosetti on my mind: ‘In the deep midwinter/Frosty wind made moan/Earth stood hard as iron/Water like a stone.’ I left ‘El Dorado’ building, with murals of gilded flappers crossing into the city of gold-the venture capitalist’s Pilgrim’s Progress, to walk into the empty park. Fifteen centigrade below, and was it more like the Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa which had inspired Olsted and Vaux.

Ice, water, fresh snow 16 2 15

Ice, water, fresh snow 16 2 15

I discovered that I did not know how to walk on deep, frozen snow, and that every bird expected me to feed them. Nono was in my mind (Frankly, I would have preferred Schubert), it warped around memories of Guy. He loved early baroque violin music, so I began an incoherent, freezing, musical conversation with him about landscape gardening and music, replaying one which we had had about 17 years earlier, but this time, interspersed with snippets of the Walther Hortulus Cheliculus, and the Biber Passacaglia, which did not suit, as there was no Schutzengel for me.

East of the Reservoir 16 2 15

East of the Reservoir 16 2 15

Answers to the problems that Nono was posing me loomed up, in the fractal beauty of the edges of ice and snow against the black stream flowing into rock-hard Harlem Meer. And gradually, colour began to find its way, the slightest touch of roseate sunlight reflecting on the reservoir, a hint of Robin’s egg blue on the westerly horizon beneath snow-fraught clouds, with the water-towers of the Upper West Side in relievo.

Performance

Rehearsal: working with filmmaker Immo Horn

Rehearsal: working with filmmaker Immo Horn

 

Composer Paul Pellay writes about the performance, about Nono:

‘Went up to London today to catch up with Peter Sheppard Skaerved as he let loose with another of his uncategorisable showcases, this one at Goldsmiths. The main work was Luigi Nono’s “La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura”, for violin, 8 pre-recorded tapes and several music stands. The player had to move from one stand to another to continue the work as the stands were not positioned contiguously – and that’s no accident: Nono required the violinist to be a “caminante” – the player had to “travel” from one stand to another to continue the work, thus journeying through the piece literally as well as figuratively. Cards on the table: Nono is one of those composers whose music has mostly been a locked door to me – Elliott Carter, Boulez and Henze are easy game in comparison, at least in my experience! Part of the problem may well be the fact that up to now my exposure to Nono has been exclusively through recordings. A visual element clearly plays a vital role in experiencing his work. And the problem may well have been mine, too: as a composer I tend to approach any music analytically – it’s a tendency I find myself having to curb more and more these days, because a lot of music actively resists this approach, Nono’s especially. So for me, the only way I could find myself on some kind of wavelength with this work was to simply lose myself in it and experience it as a stream-of-consciousness experience somewhere between wakefulness and a sort of trance (short of an outright “doze”!). As a listener I felt I was stretched to the limits of my capabilities, and maybe I needed to be in that position. The trick lies in being willing to be stretched – most people shrink away from the challenge because they labour under the hopelessly limiting belief that music is just “entertainment”! It’s something far more complex and, yes, often far more disturbing than that: it can force the listener to face up to oneself and realise that what one sees one may not necessarily like. And that’s all right. Really it is. Nono’s music brings me face to face with my limitations as a listener, and forces me to try to find a way to overcome them. And if any success on that front only brings me up against new limitations? Then I have to find a way to overcome them too. A lifelong process. Nono’s work is part of a series of works which on one level (as I perceive it) operate on the notion that life is a journey that one has to travel. And if there’s no road? You must travel all the same. The one work of his out of that series I have liked enough to listen repeatedly up to now is in fact titled “No hay caminos, hay que caminar” – which roughly translates as “there is no road, yet you have to walk”. Life itself, really.
As for Peter’s………….I hesitate to call it “performance”; undergoing as complex and undefinable a process as represented by the way “La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura” unfolds in a space such as the Great Hall in Goldsmiths College isn’t something I can pigeonhole with the term “performance”, somehow. But the whole experience with him as both guide and traveller left me feeling a little differently about that locked door with the name “Luigi Nono” on it. I don’t think that door has opened. Not yet. But this experience has at least left me feeling that the door might eventually open of its own accord, even if only by the narrowest of cracks………….’23 2 15