Smolka: My My Country
Part of my work is giving new energy to overused musical elements such as melody or consonant harmonies or intervals - modulating them, distorting them and putting them to unexpected context. After the 20th century with all it’s fascinating innovations, I believe that now there is time to revitalize the thrown beauties, to pure them creatively from varnishes and lies of pop-culture and to liberate them from an exclusive territory of kitsch.
In this piece a focused element is “microtonal version of pitch” (working term). Many of the used pitches have their versions: 1/4-tone lower, 1/6-tone lower, sometimes even 14 cents lower (= 1/14 of tone = difference between tempered third and natural third 5:4). These versions are often sounding together at the same time, creating “thick tones” (another working term).
Relatively consonant harmony, such as incomplete 7th-chord or triad with additions, is usually multiplied step by step by the “microtonal versions” of its pitches. The consonant, quasi tonal quality of the chord remains, while a rich complex of interference beatings appears. This is mostly presented in pianissimo. The beating appears here unusually rich and inextricable. Its fascinating trembling, shivering and glittering, its wild whispered dance determined poetics of the piece.
Another form of “dance of interferences” is a narrow cluster of microtones. Here the hint of consonant quality is granted by pitch of the edges, e.g. interval of minor third, which comes out as it were an aural contour.
The “microtonal versions of pitch” also made possible a use of compressed intervals (such as lower minor 10th, lower minor 6th etc.) and their expressive tension in “grand unison” of violins, or a just-intonation chord of 6th to 9th partials and it’s peaceful sound, reminding cats’ mutter.
As a base for precise intonation of microintervals, there serves scordatura of two harps and an extended use of nontempered harmonics of divided cellos, double basses and violas (especially 5th and 7th). Woodwinds should use microinterval fingerings for 1/4-tones as well as 1/6-tones, same intervals has to be intoned by violins.
“My My Country” is dedicated to the memory of my father PhDr. Jaroslav Smolka (1933-2011), musicologist, historian of music, composer, critic, and for long years a widely influential personality of Czech musical life; who’s great knowledge included, among other, almost each note of My Country, the cycle of symphonic poems by Bedrich Smetana. My father devoted to me and my sister a lot of his scarce time to teach us all about music. Nevertheless, the deepest memorized music of my childhood has been tapping of his typewriter – the permanent sound of our home. My my my home.