This month the Vykintas Baltakas portrait CD is released by Kairos. The title of the album – Ouroboros makes reference to an ancient symbol of a snake or dragon swallowing its own tail, constantly creating itself and forming a circle. The album presents Baltakas’ works for ensemble which are based on re- cycled, reused or ‘found’ musical material.
Vykintas Baltakas shared a fascinating insight into his music creative process with Composers Edition Késia Decoté.
Késia Decoté: What a great listening I just had with the tracks of your portrait CD. Really wonderful work! My sensation was of being taking to different places, then immersing in the here and now, then again being taken somewhere else, what a fascinating journey it came out as my experience. Thank you!
This album brings together ensemble works based on recycled, reused or ‘found’ musical material. Would you tell us more about your relationship with previous materials and how they inform your compositional process?
Vykintas Baltakas: Nothing comes out of nothing. Every work happens in a context. I like to understand the context for which I write my music. Sometimes the new piece is a reference to my own work (for example, Ouroboros – Zyklus) or to an Œuvre of another composer (such as in Smokey Arnold or Commentum for cello and piano/orchestra). Sometimes it is born from snippets of traditional music (Nichtstück for ensemble, or Eine kleine Nachtmusik for solo violin) or some existing musical structures (like a Redditio cycle, relating 4 works for soprano and trumpet, soprano and electronics, for ensemble and for woodwind quintet). Even some accidental recordings or some very specific acoustics (Music of falling sounds for violin and electronics) can become a virtual ”stage” for me to start imagining a new work, similar to a theater director. These contexts can be limited or more intense, but many of my works have such references.
KD: In the notes you say that Smokey Arnold draws from Schoenberg and ideas of nostalgia and non-linearity. In my listening I felt such a fresh approach to rhythm, also a sense of deconstruction. This made me curious about the impact of Schoenberg’s music on your musical journey.
The melancholy, the drama of the Viennese bourgeois, for me, being one hundred years removed from the original Schoenberg composition, it all seems odd and quite confusing. I grew up in a different reality: soviet block apartments, a censorship of feelings and thoughts. After the soviet curtain opened, my focus as a young composer was rather on something contemporary and experimental.
KD: In Smokey Arnold a back and forth motion shapes the work. This seems to me to resonate the concept of the album itself, of working with recycled musical material. Does the element of ‘memory’ play a role in your musical ideas? How do you engage with it?
VB: I would be very happy if someone could erase my memory of the musical practices! This is rather the problem… Every time you expect that a new idea will bring you onto an entirely new path. However the memories, experiences or simple motorics allow only limited deviation from where you went previously. So the changes are happening in an evolutionary way rather than a revolutionary one. Maybe there is a reason for that, for the composer and for the listener to stay on the same page
KD: You have a fantastic line up in this album – LENsemble, Het Collectief, Rita Balta, Klangforum Wien, Johannes Kalitzke – a combination of leading Lithuanian and international artists. Is there a dynamic of balancing, or blending, Lithuanian and international influences in your process of making music?
VB: I work with international musicians and I have good relationships with them: this allows me to reach deeper in the performance of my music. Conducting my own ensemble – LENsemble – in Vilnius has created some magical possibilities to shape my works in the way I really imagined them.
Vykintas Baltakas Ouroboros portrait CD will be available on Kairos Music website, followed by digital distribution on the main streaming platforms.
Vykintas Baltakas – Ouroboro
Performers: Rita Balta, Het Collectief, LENsemble/Vykintas Baltakas (conductor), Klangforum/Johannes Kalitzke (conductor)
3 Works: Lift to Dubai, Smokey Arnold (CE), Ouroboros zyklus
Paladino Media / Kairos Music