Sergey Akhunov "Songs&Poems"
Updated: Apr 6
First Dmitry Sinkovsky invited me to write compositions for his ensemble “La Voce Strumentale”, and he wanted it to be music for voice and instruments. Although song is not my favourite genre, in the context of Dmitry’s idea – “contemporary music for baroque instruments”— it seemed attractive.
When I got acquainted with Cummings’ poetry for the first time, I was not impressed – perhaps because it was in Russian translation.
But later, when I found in the Internet his poem “Though your sorrows not”, I suddenly heard how these verses may sound. I could imagine a long, harmonically varied introduction interrupted by a voice singing «Though your sorrows not any tongue may name….” It was enough to find a connection to Cummings’ poetry.
I wanted to avoid any pastiche of baroque music. Yes, it is music for baroque instruments, but it is composed now and for contemporary audiences. So I decided not to use cembalo, but contemporary piano instead.
Besides, I wanted to create a kind of theatrical phantasmagoria: a contemplative second part (“There is a moon sole”) turns into a mystical story of a wizard who fixes women’s fate (“Who sharpens every dull”) with an allusion to post-war American movies, fancy and at the same time naïve with musical “suspenses” without denouement. Comically militarized - like the Good Soldier Švejk - the fourth part (“Rain or hail”) turns into a love story (“I carry your heart with me”). The fairy-tale “Dreamingly” is a finale of the whole cycle. It is almost theatre, a fantasy world, bizarre and baroque.
The second cycle of this project is composed with Russian texts. I have chosen poems by Olga Sedakova. Her “Chinese travelogue” consists of eighteen verses. I used the first five of them.
The poetry has no rhyme, but is strictly rhythmically organized. Moreover, the title “Chinese travelogue” implies a certain opportunity for allusions on Eastern ceremony and Asian sonority. The music of these two cycles is subordinate to the text and not only rhythmically – it is subordinate to the mood of the poetry.
«The pond says: had I hands and a voice I would love and cherish you»
As Julia Lezhneva who sings three songs in this project once remarked, the first long lasting note with the word “pond” appears to be a drop hanging from a tree branch over still water. With its downfall at the word “says” the cello enters as a movement of radiating circles. So it has some inner connections with the East Asian poetry, but at the same time – and quite obviously – with Bach’s music.