A conversation with the composer: Boris Jakopović
The second concert entitled SOLO-TUTTI in the Cantus Ensemble cycle is scheduled to take place at the Small Hall of the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Venue on Saturday, 17 December 2022, starting at 8 PM.
Alongside performing numerous compositions, Cantus Ensemble will perform Boris Jakopović's new piece Stage Dimmed. Days prior to the performance, the composer reveals the new composition details and reflects on his studies in Ukraine.
How did you approach this new composition? Did you expand on an existing music idea that now came to fruition, or instead on your previous compositions (as was the case with the kindred pieces Alliages and Alloys? Or was it stemming from something outside of music?
When it comes to any of my new pieces, I apply some new composing procedures – at least partially - or I establish new style baselines, depending on the ideas or moods I want to create. I approach my compositions exclusively without any programmatic framework. In this composition, I have extensively used the collage technique – polystylism – which assumes other features, as several instances of paraphrasing or reminiscing of personal and other people's work, and then their further development.
The composition is prominent for its sharp transitions from very elegiac episodes of minimalist expression to energetic, sometimes even aggressive episodes. This certainly reflects my musings on the situation in the country I had spent my higher music education in - Ukraine. It also reflects the feelings of helplessness and anger toward these events that overwhelm me. Yet I was not driven by those thoughts while composing the piece. I may have "inserted" them subsequently, just as I did with the title. So, I do not consider it a programmatic work.
Does knowing who will be first performing a piece affect the composing process, whether they are certain performers, or as in this case, Cantus Ensemble? How would you describe your collaboration with Cantus Ensemble thus far, and how would you describe their role on the music scene?
When composing for a bigger ensemble with many individuals, the only thing to keep in mind is that you are working with professional performers, likely versed in contemporary classical music. Cantus Ensemble's members certainly are, as it is the oldest ensemble specialized for this field. My partnership with them is very successful. It has culminated with performances of my work NODI, a kind of concert for an orchestra where every member is practically treated as a (virtuoso) soloist. As far as the ensemble's role in the contemporary Croatian scene is concerned, the ensemble is its backbone and a constant.
You have studied in Ukraine. What would you say has affected you during your maturation as a musician, and what still leaves a mark on you today when you work in the scene of musicians who have mainly studied at the Music Academy of Zagreb? Are there differences in the education systems when talking about composing, or are they less significant than the individual student going through it?
Yes, it is somewhat unusual to appear as a guest in your own country and an expat in a foreign country where you have already been recognized as a "colleague". It took a certain period of adjustment to the local scene and vice versa. That process has not been fully completed do date. Nowadays, we see a greater number of colleagues who are Croatian composers who have been educated abroad, which absolutely was not a frequent situation up until some ten years ago.
There are specific formal differences between the education systems and programs of the Pyotr Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine and the Academy of Music in Zagreb. I hear that
some colleagues who have received their degrees in Zagreb mention the so-called "Zagreb school of composing". However, I could not say that there is an unambiguous "Kyiv school of composition", since my university colleagues (there were eight of us in the class) come from rather different style directions, just like their professors. The studies are primarily a time to acquire knowledge and techniques, where the style of a certain author can transform multiple times. I certainly do not want to be one of those composers' names easily recognizable after just a few measures, which is today far more difficult than in the past due to the nature of the material you work with, as well as it is due to the great number of authors.
Do you still follow the Ukrainian contemporary music scene?
Not only do I follow it, but I have been actively present in their contemporary music scene practically since I finished my studies in Kyiv in 2010. This assumed multiple first performances at the Kyiv Music Festival - their most significant festival of contemporary music - as well as other important events such as the concert series of electro-acoustic music EM-VISIA. Since my composition was performed both in Croatia and Ukraine, it was also a valuable experience to work with different ensembles on the same material. That can result in various interesting insights. It was a special honor to have been the only foreigner included with my composition Navi affondate in the double-edition anthology that covers some fifty years of Ukrainian electro-acoustic creation. Of course, the current war events are certainly not encouraging for further artistic projects, but what was great news is that the Kyiv Music Fest was taking place this year between late September and early October, alongside other concert events.