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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Vyacheslav Artyomov, Symphony Gentle Emanation, Tristia II



I have been schooled in the thought that everything in life is related to everything else, to look at social life systematically. At the same time I grew up in an environment that believed strongly in the idea of progress. So to me the most modern art, the most modern music was to be sought out and experienced. My attraction to science fiction classics and the futurism of the '50s outlook reassured me that the future was going to be better, with the exception of the classic dystopias of 1984, Brave New World, or H.G. Wells' Time Machine. But even then everything worked, there was no noticeable poverty, and government control in various guises was the main negative force.

Gradually the future unfolded and yes, we have a great deal of technology in our everyday lives, but like Blade Runner the stubborn messiness of the past, the decayed nightmare of inner cities, strife between political parties and world religious fundamentalists have a huge role to play in the world arena. Much of this infiltrates all of our daily lives. And often enough at the economic fringes the technology doesn't work because capitalism has moved on with newness and ignored functionality?

So we go. I start my morning on a temporary computer hookup that is extraordinarily erratic. Here I am one hour and forty minutes into my blog writing and I've managed to find the proper cover art and download it, only to experience multiple glitches and freezes while attempting five times to write an opening sentence for this article, each one automatically deleted via a cursor defect. Now finally I have success, only my frustration gives me the impetus to vent on this future I no longer like. My partner attempted to eat the 2015 dated oatmeal we got from the food pantry (our more kindly version of what was the bread line during the depression), eventually threw it out and here we are at the edge, the periphery of modernity and, really, nothing is working from where we sit. Our leaders say "we hear you, we'll fix everything" and then proceed, some of them, to give even more to the rich and so it goes. The rich must be placated with more money, the idea of trickle down posits, so they can be in a better mood and so more inclined to help those who may well do without. OK.

Yet I still believe in the future, in modernity, and so I also out of habit and appreciation respond favorably to the experimenters, those who go boldly in music where the vast majority of musical humanity has never trodden, not at least until the turn of the last century when humanity found musical wunderkind who opened up the fertile vistas of harmonic, rhythmic and melodic possibilities we as a species had never considered before.

And for all that intro I do introduce a new (to me) high modernist voice, from Russia, one Vyacheslav Artyomov (born 1940) and a CD of two choice orchestral works, Symphony Gentle Emanation and Tristia II, Fantasy for piano and orchestra (Divine Art 25144). Surprise! This is a fully developed voice in new music, someone who has carried over the mysterious cosmos of late Scriabin and Messiaen and made something new out of the unrealized potentials that lurked behind those composers's most prescient creations. 

In spite of my grouchy social-critical beginnings today the music of Artyomov truly speaks to me. He has a full grasp, a vision of the modern orchestra and what he might make it do, and on these two symphonic works, two sides in a way of his vision, he combines brash and bracing dissonances punctuated by mysterious ruminations on the universe in play, at work, simply being in all its shining glory and mystery, its endless processual flux that presumably has purpose that we only have a dim idea of in our religions and our science, an idea of our place in it that we continually confront with the facts and revelations that humanity thus far has managed to gather about ourselves and the cosmos. That to me is fundamental to the modernist project, in music a sonic analog of what we do and do not know.

That is what Artyomov speaks to me, in elegant and vivid eloquence. The Russian National Orchestra under conductors Teodor Currentzis and Vladimir Ponkin bring this complex and very personal music into vivid relief against the seeming silence of the universe. Artyomov is a Russian who travels in the wake of those before and manages to say something new and different. That is a remarkable achievement and he most certainly deserves a hearing. 

All you modernists and seekers of the new look no further, at least today. Give a listen to Vyacheslav Artyomov on this very moving sample of his work. It gives us another way to thread the futurist needle.

And bravo to that!

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