La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura

Graeme Jenning plays ‘La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura’, Monday Evening, March 1st, 2010. San Francisco. As part of the 2010-2011 season by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

SFCMP did something special here. They broke from their mold of multiple pieces interspersed with solo pieces and just put all of their energy and attention to one great piece played by one great musician. With so much music going on in the bay area these days, this concert stood out.

What’s so difficult for people to adjust to in Nono’s late period is exactly what makes the works so important: they aren’t flashy, they aren’t new, they aren’t old. They’re the result of a lifetime of thought, finally devoid of ambition or political will or ideological crutches.

I put this piece along with Das Atmende Klarsein and Fragmente Stille as three pieces that grow each time I listen to them. They deal with explorations of instrumental theatre with limited means. All of this is of course heading to Prometeo, Nono’s large, fantastic work.

The result of ‘composing as searching’ is nothing other than perfectly unique for this work for solo vioin and electronics. I’ve heard the piece and even seen Graeme perform before at CNMAT. This, however, was much different because of such a large space (a space I thought I knew, perfectly deconstructed to its boxy essence) with an audience perfectly primed to look around at each other and see each others faces. This seating arrangement should be used much more often, even with a fixed ensemble in the center. Last evening, I happened to find myself looking at the score to Discours II  by Vinko Globokar and, coincidentally, it demands the same seating arrangement. And there is of course many Stockhausen examples

‘La Lontananza’ demands, (along with many other great works, coincidentally) that one discards the all too usual default of structural listening that pervades most concert experiences: four or five 10-20 minute pieces with an intermission in the middle. Graeme’s decision to descend from the above balcony level was necessary to help us remove that feeling; it marked the beginning of the piece in a way that changed our perspective. For some, it proved too tritely mysterious. To further this change of feel, I think that pillows in place of chairs would have gone yet another step further- also reminiscent of the original SFCMP concerts.

Adjustment. Losing of focus. Loss of impatience. Heightened focus. Boredom. Timeless moments. Abstract thoughts. Personal thoughts. Awe of playing: extremities in general, but especially the highest notes. Clarity emerging over and over again in these high notes. Unexpectedly shedding new light on some of the more fragmentary material.

The piece ended for me after Graeme walked away from the fourth music stand. I was able to see his performing close up. After this movement the piece essentially started over again, and that was fine. I felt so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to hear Graeme at his best. The piece simply dissolved..

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