Contemplação Particular (2015)


Contemplação Particular - Private Contemplation (2015)


Contemplação Particular – Private Contemplation (2015)

Piano Solo

Premiered by António Luis Silva at Centro Cultural de Belém – Lisbon, Portugal

Duration:22’. 22’’

Contemplação Particular – Private Contemplation (2015)

“Private Contemplation” is the title give to the polyptych painted by Portuguese visual artist António Gonçalves. The work was deeply inspired by readings of Gustave Flaubert’s The Temptations of St Anthony, George Bataille’s The Tears of Eros and Eroticism, Michel Onfray’s Theory du Corps Amoreux and Catherine Millet’s The Sexual Life of Catherine M.  The polyptych demanded a space of its own, a space dedicated to it and built expressly for it.

Architect Maria Eduarda Souto de Mora was invited to design, in parallel with the painting’s development, the building that would host it. António Gonçalves named the building “Delubro” (Delubrum –pagan temple), as a reference to the history of cult and contemplation spaces. The project ushered in a new challenge:  music, a complement of painting that expands the scope of its enjoyment. Composer Antonio Celso Ribeiro was invited to write musical moments that would be played within the exhibition space, thus turning the sight of the various positions the polyptych assumes during its presentation into a unique experience: closed, half-opened and open.

Polyptych closed (left) and half-opened (right)

Polyptych opened

Brief notes on the compositions for polyptych by the composer:

The process of composing music for “Private Contemplation” polyptych relied on two basic elements: first, the ideas began flowing out of the immediate impressions the pictures generated in me: pareidolias and specific aesthetics sensations stimulated by the various positions and angles of the  polyptych (closed, half-closed and opened): secondly, these sensations and pareidolias were reinforced by my reading of Georges Bataille’s The Tears of Eros, which decidedly influenced the colours and moods of each composition. The instrument chosen for this project was the piano. The compositional approaches were drawn from the “New Simplicity” [Die Neue Einfachheit] – an ideological movement from the late 1970s, of which I have been the most faithful Latin America representative. For each position of the Polyptych a special musical moment was written, in accordance with the previously mentioned sensations, namely:

Closed Polyptych:

Take 1 – Oblata [Offering]. Duration: 1’.24”. The musical form reflects an initial impression of a sacred nature, drawing subtle inspiration from a slow, melancholic and contemplative religious hymn. On the penultimate beat, a tight chord, almost a cluster, highlights in a slightly rude manner the fear of the divine. That cluster will be featured in all the compositions of this project.

Take 2 – Veneratio [Veneration]. Duration: 1’.29’’. An impression of a sacred nature: a simple, naïve and repetitive melody that acts as a “litany” – an insistent adoration, with the intent of pleasing the divine. Its sweet and delicate harmonies subtly change until they reach complete dissolution by means of the cluster, which symbolizes the respect for, and fear of, the divine.

Half-closed Polyptych:

Take 1 – Cuniculi [Rabbits]. Duration: 1’.34’’. An impression of a profane nature: some of the pictures remind me of rabbits or hares. The rabbit’s symbology is wide-ranging: it may stand for abundance, fertility, prosperity, innocence, youth, craftiness and intelligence. In ancient Greek society rabbits were a present wealthy men gave to male youths, who were their lovers in a reciprocal sexual and affective relationship. The music is a lively, frenetic, almost orgiastic waltz, danced by the youth in honor of his lord. The composition also finishes as a cluster, communicating the relationship of domination and obedience between the loved one and his lover.

Take 2 – Passio e Seductio [Passion and Seduction]. Duration: 1’.52’’. An impression of a profane nature: an oriental-flavoured melody reflects the anthropomorphic paintings/ideograms of the half-closed polyptych. Two creatures throw themselves into a game of passion and seduction, and the cluster of domination once again makes itself visible in this relationship. The melody moves towards a baroque melody, poetically describing a near-recitative with chiaroscuro leanings, engendered by the “sound backdrop” of the cluster and by the slippery phrases of the main melody. Fear and pleasure hold hands.

Opened Polyptych

Take 1 – Eros dormit [Eros sleeps]. Duration: 3’.11’’. An impression of a profane nature: a simple, though rhythmically complex melody acts as a somewhat restless lullaby, in accordance with the temperament of Eros, who is constantly arousing human passions and amusing himself with the results. The composition intercalates extremely sweet passages with brusque flourishes, and comes to an end with the domination cluster in pianissimo, as if to say that Eros rules human passions even in his sleep.

Take 2 – Erastes & Eromenos. Duration: 2’.06’’. An impression of a profane nature: a paean to the love between an older man and his boy. A delicate theme is repeated with small variations in a bilateral relationship of affection and desire, suggested by the larger figure in the lower centre of the open polyptych, which evokes a couple symmetrically lying down in inverse positions. In the game of seduction, you can never know who is who, hence the idea of a voice (melody) that can stand now for one, now for the other or for the both of them. The domination cluster brings the piece to a close with great softness, as if yielding to love’s stratagems.

Take 3 – Monachus indignum est, non ridet [The indignity of the ape, which does not laugh]. Duration: 1’.55’’. An impression of a profane nature: the title is a quote from George Bataille’s The Tears of Eros. Bataille compares man to the ape, while making a bold connection between eroticism and death, typically human attributes, including the intentionality of laughter. The musical idea here evokes emotional moods inspired by Sturm und Drang: quick scales, (in)tense tremolos, static chords repeated until they fade out. Could man be more dignified than the ape, because he is gifted with laughter, and therefore irony? The domination cluster comes in at the end, resolute in its condition: it affirms and distorts through the power of it own sarcam.

Take 4 – Lugubre obscoenitas [Lugubrious obscentity]. Duration: 1’.50’’. An impression of a profane nature: the words above are also drawn from Bataille’s book. The accompaniment’s quasi passacaglia sobriety mirrors a false regret over the fetishes displayed by the insistently baroque melody. The rhythmic construction of both melody and accompaniment generates a polychromic discourse – each in their time, playing their role on the stage of existence and pretending (but only pretending) to be indifferent to one another. The domination cluster appears, timidly fragmented, at the last moment: remorse?

Take 5 – Tragici erotimus [Tragic eroticism]. Duration: 1’.35’’.  An impression of a sacred/profane nature: the inspiration comes still from Bataille. I quote his words to explain the feelings the music in question conveys: “Even after psychoanalysis, the contradictory aspects of eroticism appear in some way innumerable: their profundity is religious – it is still inadmissible. Probably all the more because it is divine.” The domination cluster manifests resolutely, remorselessly, before the end. The work comes to a close with the memory of ‘veneration’ – the sacralisation of the profane.

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