for 5 performers and tape

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[1] fragment from ZAUM-3 on flash player;
[2] examples from the full score;
[3] theoretical and practical description.

[1] fragment from ZAUM-3 on flash player

Play a fragment from ZAUM-3 on this player . . .


[2] examples from the full score

Pages from the original score to this composition :

[3] theoretical and practical description


Vasily Kamensky (1884-1961) played an important role as a Russian futurist, being responsible for the development and elaboration of certain avant-garde poetic techniques.   Following the premises of Russian cubo-futurism, he attempted to break down language and reconstruct it in a totally new form.  He became interested in phonic instrumentation, and in particular with the possibilities offered by onomatopoeic procedures:  here a melodic line came increasingly to prevail. The structure of the third movement, in adopting some of the attitudes to language characteristic of Kamensky, uses the structures and rhythms behind text to structure the musical development within the composition, reminiscent of Indian dance 'spoken' through the rhythmic nature of the words: musical structures continually result in the formation of the text just as the reciting of the text results in the creation of musical structures and movement patterns.    There is also an emphasis in this section on exploring more completely the role that 'movement' plays in the creation of music; the natural physicality of music expressed through playing an instrument or conducting.  This can be related to a relatively new form of Balinese dance called Kebyar Duduk that uses the 'physicality' of instrument-playing to structure the dance.   The dance itself evolved from the physical process required to play the trompong, where the length of the instrument itself necessitated the player to move from one end to the other, and as such was usually played by two performers.  The originator of Kebyar Duduk wanted to play this instrument alone and thus invented a large number of stylized movements that would allow him to reach from one end to the other.  This performance became independent of the instrument and recognised as a dance in its own right, although the dancer in Kebyar Duduk can still be seen as "an instrument, not as a person."[1]   The physicality of instrument playing is also suggested by musical teaching methods adopted in Africa.  Here, patterns of movements are imparted 'physically' by the teacher to the pupil, for instance by a teacher holding his pupil's hand and imparting direct impulses to them until the pupil has absorbed the movement pattern and his hands holding the sticks are moved at the correct instant.[2]   The intention in Zaum-3 is therefore to extend musical discourse into a physical dimension, where movement patterns are related directly to musical lines.  The performers on stage are used to express this relationship between sound and movement, resulting in the creation of a 'dance/movement language'.     Zaum-3 is divided into three sections;  (i) Ensemble,                                                                         (ii) Chorus,                                                                         (iii) Finale.     Section 1: Ensemble This section begins with a 'phantom' ensemble that forms on stage where the existence of large and grotesque musical  instruments is suggested by the exaggerated movements of the performers.  The sounds themselves are heard from a recording, and are actually vocal sounds of the same five performers.  Movements and sounds emerging from these invisible 'instruments' are echoed at all times by a performer standing before the ensemble and taking the role of a conductor: he/she gives stylized gestures that seem to have some controlling connection with the sounds and movements.    Section 2: Chorus The 'musicians' vacate the central space leaving the conductor alone who is facing away from the audience.  This performer moves under a spotlight which comes up in the centre of the stage, turns around, bows to the audience, and then begins to 'perform' movement-texts which are spoken by the chorus now surrounding the performance area.   The function of this section is to introduce and develop the basic elements of the 'dance-language' that will structure the finale.  The texts used are based on a completely 'meaningless' (translatable only as sounds) but rhythmically and texturally exciting sound poem by Kamensky.  Here the zaum words are brought to life by performing the rhythmic passages as flowing movement patterns and the sounds of single syllables as sharp gestures.   Much of this movement material has already appeared in Zaum-1 and Zaum-2, although it is presented here in a further developed form.  A recitation of the poem is followed by a number of developments of the same text suggesting alternative ways of presenting dance languages, leading finally to the performance of two 'dance sentences' growing directly from Kamensky's poem.  These dance sentences are used as the basis for the concluding section.  Comparable to forms of Indian temple dance, this small vocabulary of rhythmic vocal sounds structures time in such a way that the movement and  musical compositions can simultaneously develop, inseparably intertwined.   Overleaf is the original poem by Kamensky followed by the dance sentences.          

                                  Sound Poem from Vasily Kamensky:   Zgara-amba                 Zgara-amba Zgara-amba                 Zgara-amba Zgara-amba                 Zgara-amba Amb.                                       Amb.                Amb-zgara-amba                                  Amb-zgara-amba         Amb-zgara-amba                                     Amb-zgara-amba         Amb-zgara-amba                                     Amb-zgara-amba         Amb.                                                       Amb.   qar-qor-qur-qir                        tsar-tsor-tsur-tsir Cin-drax-tam-dzzz.                  Chin-drax-tam-dzzz. [3]    


                       Rhythmic/Dance Language:   mu-ska-ra-am-ba  qar!         moo-ska-ra-am-ba  tsar! zga-ra-am-ba                                    zga-ra-am-ba dza-ma  qor!  wa-ma-ka       dza-ma  tsor!  sha-ma-ka qi-ma-ka-wa-ma                   tsi-ma-ka-sha-ma lu-ci-da-ci  qir!                     loo-chi-da-chi  tsir! da-moc-ka-za-ku                  da-moch-ka-za-koo   m'-ka  cin!  za-ma-ku           myo-ka  chin!  za-ma-ky xa-ma-[o-ku                                     xa-ma-zho-koo xa-ma-za-ma-ka  drax!         xa-ma-za-ma-ka  drax! qu-ra-fu-ma-ci                      tsoo-ra-foo-ma-chi fu-ma-ra-ci  tam!                  foo-ma-ra-chi  tam! wu-ska-ma-ra-ca                  shoo-ska-ma-ra-cha  


  Section 3: Finale When a prerecorded voice on tape begins to recite the text, the composition has entered its concluding stage.   The musical structure of the conclusion can be divided into five shorter sections.  The first three of these divisions involve a doubling of the tempo at which the text is recited:  the first division is very slow, the second twice as fast and the third twice as fast again, and these speed changes are reflected both by the movement of the performers and the melodic and rhythmic development within the musical composition.    1: The first division involves a single recorded voice and a single performer.  Here the dance sentences as previously introduced can be found hidden among rhythmic syllables.   This technique of extending a dance text by the insertion of syllables is also used in Indian dance exercises. These rhythmic syllables have no meaning-based connection with the dance text, but the dance text is actually being read very slowly and if the syllables were not included it would be difficult to hold the rhythm: here the performer must express very slowly the dance text in movement as first introduced during the chorus.  Musical sounds in the form of percussion instruments gradually impose.    2:  After one complete repetition of the dance sentences, the second division begins and the speed of the text doubles resulting in two more performers joining the soloist.  The music continues to grow in complexity beneath the words.  The text/movement composition is performed simultaneously twice by the three performers standing centre stage.   3: The speed doubles again, leading to the third division and also signifying the entrance of the last two performers.  At this point however, one of the recorded voices reads the text at the faster tempo, and the other two voices stay at the same tempo, meaning that while the complete text is read four times by one of the voices (and performed quickly by the solo performer), the text is read only two times at the slower speed and thus performed at the slower tempo.  The new performers that have joined the dance composition are reacting to the sound of two new voices that have started reciting text on the tape: they are adopting a slow and regular rhythmic repetition of the syllabic gestures first introduced in the chorus, contrasting with the flowing movements texts now being spoken/danced.   The 'music-language' is now at its most complex, involving simultaneously three different dance speeds and musical levels.  In the fourth repetition of the solo dance-text, the music and thus the movement of all the performers begins to accelerate.    4:  The fourth division of the finale begins after a point of climax is reached and all the players suddenly change from the complex polyphonic movement patterns to a simplified  more rhythmical movement series.  These movements are based on the rhythms of a simplified text taken from the dance sentences, and the music (structured around the words) is based on the repeating patterns of the Indonesian gamelan.  This pattern repeats a number of times, and then the rhythm begins to slow.          5:  Division five begins when a new slower tempo is reached.  Suddenly more complex musical, vocal and physical elements are brought in within the existing structure.  Like in Indonesian gamelan, the musical structure remains the same, but when the slower tempo is reached more complex rhythmic patterns can occur.  Just as the melody behind the spoken text keeps playing at the slower tempo, the solo performer stays performing the slow rhythmic movements while two of the other performers are performing a more complex rhythmic pattern.  The purpose here is to demonstrate something which is unique in Indonesian musical performance:  when a slower tempo is reached and the resulting sound from the performance becomes complex because of the entrance of new rhythmic passages, simple melodic instruments stay holding the same melodic pattern that is actually no longer recognizable as a melody because the speed is so slow.  The motions of the performers who are playing these instruments have also slowed, and it appears almost as if the musicians playing the slower tempo are performing in slow motion despite the complex rhythms that have developed around them.[4]   All the performers play together in an entirety that allows for simultaneous performance of different rhythmic levels, which despite their differences are bonded together by the larger repeating musical structures.   This binds the performance together in a way that is not readily perceived in Western culture, reflecting in a unique way an 'unspoken' cultural unity, one that is expressed through the music.     As mentioned an important element of  Zaum-3 is the intimate and inseparable relationship that exists between the words and the music, comparable particularly to forms of Indian dance where the rhythms of the words dictate structures both to the musicians and the dancers. In Zaum-3 a 'dance/movement language' develops from which musical textures are allowed to grow that relate directly to the structures of the spoken texts.  Through the development of  these musical textures beneath the vocal sounds the words themselves become gradually redundant, leaving only the music and dance.  A state is now presented where the composition has moved beyond the necessity for the binding structures of 'language' to communicate, resulting finally in the silence which begun the composition.

[1] Beryl De Zoete and Walter Spies, ÒDance and Drama in BaliÓ Traditional Balinese Culture(ed.) Jane Belo

    (Columbia University Press 1970).

[2] Gerhard Kubik, ÒPattern Perception and Recognition in African MusicÓ The Performing Arts (ed.) John

   Blacking (Mouton 1979).

[3] Vasily Kamensky, Sto Poetov (Moscow, 1923).

[4] In Zaum-3 an Indonesian musical technique is used called ÔImbahlÕ.  Here two contrasting melodies (one 

    playing on the beat and the other on the off-beat) are united and form together a new melody.




May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)
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Last modified:
May 30, 2008