Culture

Facing Your True Self

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Angel Spiroski (1996) began his academic education in 2014 at FMU– Skopje at the composition department studying with associate professor MA. Darija Andovska, while in 2015 he started his second department — orchestral conductingwith associate professor MA. Sasho Tatarcevski.He attended several seminars and master classes with European composers: Bernhard Wulff (Germany), Olga Viktorova (Ukraine/Russia), Jean-Luc Fafchamps (Belgium), Snezana Nesic (Serbia/Germany), Steffen Schleiermacher (Germany) etc.His compositions were performed at the recent editions of the “Days of Macedonian Music” festival, while as a conductor he has performed with “Con Tempora”- a contemporary music ensemble, and the Chamber Orchestra of the Faculty of Music of Skopje.

How do you find this festival,“Days of Macedonian Music”? Do you think it helps the young or does it make them conformists? Do you agree with the age limits; many times, the old generation doesn’t get the deserved spotlight…

Havinga festival that promotes domestic contemporary music, but at the same time gives us the chance to become familiar with the new musical trends in the world, is of vital importance for young musicians, both composers and performers. “Days of Macedonian Music” is, so far, the only festival where a young composer can hear/see the actual product of his/her imagination. It is the only festival where a young performer can get the chance to introduce himself/herself in front of the audience. Finally, it is the only festival where the audience can hear professional music written in contemporaneity. As far as I know, there are no age limits in the selection of the programand I don’t see why anyone could feel like not getting the “deserved spotlight”. I might be wrong, but the productivity of the older generation of Macedonian composers is almost non-existent, and there is where you can find your answer.

Many young artists with whom I spoke with were reluctant to come to this event claiming that it is not an honest one, that there were some activities that were going on with the audience and with the entire organization. Do you think this is true? How do you find the organization of this festival?

The only segmentsof“honesty” that I am interested in, when it comes to going to a concert,are the honesty of the performance, and how honest the composer was with himself/herself while writing the piece. Paradoxically, most concerts where that kind of honesty can be felt are performed by international ensembles, yet the program they play always contains many pieces of Macedonian composers.I would like to experiment and create music in an environment where our own performers are eager to perform music of “their own” composers, and, right now, I think there is a generation that is going to create those working conditions. I can proudly say that “Monohromatika”, a concert on this year’s edition of DMM organized mainly as an initiative of piano student Iva Damjanovski, was an example of how new music should be presented to the audience.The organization of the festival, in my opinion, is good, but to provoke more audience, good is not enough, you need to be extraordinary, and the only way you can achieve that is by presenting modern music in a modern way, which includes: inviting good ensembles, having an attractive choice of program, booking the best halls, as well as, each and every other alternative concert space you can think of, having a bulletproof marketing plan, and maybe above all, finding out how to make the listener feel like an inseparable part of the whole event, because, in fact, he/she is!I know that in our country, with limited budgets for festivals like this,all of the above mentioned is hard to organize, but we are musicians, we are being creative with something as abstract as music, so finding alternatives to realize a successful festival should not be a problem.

Do you think that the time of big composers and conductors (such as Pierre Boulez or Krzysztof Penderecki) is over? Now small is in, in every way.

If you mean “big” in terms of popularity- I guess less and less people will get that, in a way, social role, but if you mean “big” in terms of quality of the work they have created, then my answer is yes. There will be big composers, even in bigger numbers. It is the result of the facilitated and accelerated flow of communication. So at the same time, while composers of the world connect with each other, exchange experiences and grow together, the listener is overloaded with information and, in some cases, confused about what to pick, and how to value that. For example: almost nobody knows Kate Soper (USA) or Jean-Luc Fafchamps (Belgium), yet in my opinion, most of their work is technically, intellectually and aesthetically at a very high level.The other thing that is easily predictable, and that, in fact, already happens is: big orchestras and opera houses get closed, while smaller ensembles are being created all the time. So, probably, as a result of that, the focus of composers of new music is on chamber works and electronics. I don’t think we will face a big step forward in the orchestral genres in the near future, instead there will be many interesting, and yet not so exploited, syncretic forms of art pieces with music as its core.

How did you decide to compose? What was your inspiration for the composition you presented at the festival?

I was 10 years old and alreadyplaying the accordion and the piano, but everything I learnt, I learnt by ear, and everything I repeated, it was by heart, so, because I wasn’t stuck with the sheet music, I improvised a lot. One day, I started improvising over a chord of the etude I played back then, and after a few hours, I convinced myself that I invented triad inversions, only to find out, few days later, that they were already in use for more than 500 years, also theoretically explained about the same amount of time. I was disappointed, but the satisfaction to attempt to create something on my own was still there, and since then it never went away.The creation of the composition “Ora Iacentem” was inspired by a phrase used in one of the poems of the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso that make up the words “ora”—meaning“prayer” and “iacentem”—meaning “laying”— that, whentranslated, mean “lying face down”. In the poem itself, Ovidius used this phrase in a context where it means “facing your true self”, a process that I was actually starting at that moment, even though not being aware of it. The dramaturgy of the piece is built on two contrasting thematic materials which interfere with one another, resembling the inner conflicts a person is facing while discovering his/her true personality, then they create a climax, and in the “echo” of the climax they are placed on top of each other, achieving unity, suggesting the balance after finishing the process of discovering both the light and the dark segments of personality.

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Tell us what are, according you, the pillars of Macedonian composition historically, including the composers of electronic music?

I find the development of Macedonian composition history very sympathetic, mostly because of the versatility of styles, and everything starting with the first attempt to write professional, artistic music (and a very successful one, I should say) made by Atanas Badev, a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Mily Balakirev, writing the “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom” printed in 1898. After him, a group of professional Macedonian classical music composers appeared, consisting of Stefan Gajdov, Živko Firfov, Trajko Prokopiev, Todor Skalovski etc., whose main inspiration was the Macedonian folklore, writing mainly choral music. From the mid-20s we note a great variety of musical styles where we have the humorous Vlastimir Nikolovski, the pioneer of the neo-classical style in Macedonian music- Tomislav Zografski, Toma Prošev- the founder of musical modernism in Macedonia etc. Vlastimir Nikolovski and Tomislav Zografski were also huge pedagogical figures in the history of Macedonian music- teaching composers like: Tome Mančev, Živojin Glišić, Jana Andreevska, Mihailo Trendafilovski, Pande Šahov andGoce Kolarovski (for me, the most original Macedonian composer, and also the most productive composition teacher in Macedonian music history, teaching many composers including: Darija Andovska, Damjan Temkov, Soni Petrovski etc.).When it comes to electronic music in Macedonia, the first electronic composition named “Eleorp 76” was made by Dragoslav Ortakov in Belgrade, 1976, following the example of the then European music avant-garde. After that attempt, Dimitrije Bužarovski made few electronic pieces in the gap between mid-80s and mid-90s of the past century, while today, as promoters of Macedonian electronic music, I can point out my professor Darija Andovska, and my collegue Andrej Blaževski.

Do you think that artists are lonely people? Especially now when everybody has no free time… How does this (or the opposite…) reflect on artists?

Everyone can feel lonely in some part of the day, and everyone needs that time alone. In that context, artists are not much different than “others”, yet the difference is in the “usage” of the time spent being alone. In loneliness, artists sublimate what they were surrounded with in the processes of communication, and recreate and organize the emotional impact and intellectual progress that was caused by those actions. There is a never-ending circle of energy transfer between people, animals, nature and objects, which is used as a fuel for artistic expression.It is true that, even as artists, we cannot lead our lives from a romanticist point of view and expect to be successful today, since a good artist should be, at the same time, someone who provokes a social progress, often reconsidering the moral and ethical patterns and ideologiesin his/her surrounding, by beinghistorically aware of the time and place he/she lived in. Today the evolutionary progress, in all segments of mankind, is in constant acceleration,soan artist simply follows such a trend.

author of the text: Igor Pop Trajkov

photographs courtesy of Мr. Spiroski and A. Veskovski

Categories: Culture, English, Interview

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