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CD Feature/ Kenneth Gaburo: "Lingua II: Maledetto / Antiphony VIII"

img  Tobias

In terms of his potential marketability, Kenneth Gaburo could easily have matched John Cage. Both, after all, had a talent of finding demonstrative phrases and striking musical forms for their ideas, which allowed even the average Joe to grasp what they were on to – in the somewhat unlikely even of him being interested in finding out, that is. Their respective oeuvres were marked by a peculiar penchant for allowing the public to either dismiss them as fluff or lift them to a metaphysical plateau where journalistic criticism and mainstream rejections could no longer reach them. Depending on one’s point of view, too, it was even possible to make out revolutionary tendencies beneath the surface: Just as with Cage, Gaburo’s musical ideas implied radical changes in the way that art should or could be perceived – and in the way it was being sold to the public.

To Gaburo, language and music should not be separated. Nor should performance and reception of art. From his point of view, a piece did not begin on stage, but during the very first rehearsal – something he would take to extremes on “Maledetto”. Percussionist Steve Schick, meanwhile, who performs “Antiphony VIII” on this disc, a piece which requires the soloist to pass through emotional states of ignorance and anger to exhaustion, can still acount how the composer moved his instruments farther apart only moments before the concert was to begin.

The reason was simple yet stunning: Schick had become too proficient in playing the music. His gradual breakdown had turned into acting instead of real physical fatigue. For Gaburo, it didn’t matter whether or not the public could tell one from the other, because the music, as it was conceived by the score, only came into being by ignoring any external observer, existing for it’s own sake and within its own space. If l’art pour l’art were a doctrine, even James Joyce would seem like a liberal in comparison.

Quite obviously, Gaburo’s principles and beliefs were much closer connected to theatre than to music. In a dramaturgical play and in the hands of capable actors, the process of pretending turns into something real, after all, and words still have the power to shape worlds. So it was, too, with Gaburo, whose „Maledetto” spans a 45-minute long cosmos of monologues, dialogues and multilogues, screams, sylables and streams of thoughts, debates, dreams and dada.

On the outside, the work is a lingual discussion of the term “screw” in all of its connotations as well as a onomatopoetic dissection of its sounds. Musically, it constitutes a fantastically immersive experience and a hypnotic ritual for eight voices and a short opening section of rustling hiss. Everything bases on language rather than meaning and logic here, yet language can not exist on its own accord. Only in the moment of utterance, when the words leave the lips of a performer, does it become real. In this instance, too, the liberation from the need to make sense introduces a feeling of limitless wideness and endless possibilities: You could gladly get lost in this piece for hours.

Leading up to its premiere, Gaburo had practised with the particapating performers for months and by the time the version on this album was recorded, the cast had already grown in experience and confidence. And yet, everything sounds fresh, naive even, as if the vocalists feel their way forward towards making contact and establishing relationships as if they were meeting for the first time.

Gaburo's art rejected passive consumption, demanded participation and therefore opposed the traditional and proven business model of mass marketing music to uncritical hordes of buyers. Its logical consequence was that if language was music and life was a form of art, then everyone could be an artist. In a world, which mostly regards music as a tightly delineated, restrictively defined comfort zone, Kenneth Gaburo was a dangerous man. No wonder John Cage, whose ideas could be still be dismissed as humurous and whimsical, eventually eclipsed him in medial terms and in musical history.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Kenneth Gaburo Tribute Page
Homepage: Pogus Records

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