by Daniel Chudovský
World premiere of Mikva – ‘A collection’, for String Quartet
In this article, Daniel Chudovský, who is studying for his PhD in composition at the Academy of Performing Arts (HAMU) in Prague, talks about his new work for string quartet, commissioned by the PtJA, which will receive its premiere in Prague duting the Ze stínu (Out of the Shadows) festival.
It is a great honour to write my new work, Mikva – ‘A collection’, for String Quartet specially for Performing the Jewish Archive. I approached this task with much more joy, though the content of the piece is not so joyful, as it exists on a complicated, emotional terrain, perhaps conveying feelings of regret, self-knowledge, and an effort to overcome personal obstacles.
Allow me to explain the title, Mikva, and the reasons for using it. I wasn’t specifically instructed to use a Jewish topic, though I have always had a close relation to such things. Nor did I want to choose any clichéd ideas on a Holocaust theme; I do not have the courage to even evaluate this with words, let alone music. And so Mikva came to me.
Mikva, the idea of a Jewish ritual bath, appealed to me in its factual character – as a sacred, cleaning bath, which can (spiritually and metaphorically) reshape and illuminate a person. Before entering a Mikva, there is preparation; the one who is going into the Mikva is preparing themselves for something. On the other hand, after immersion, they leave something behind – a type of sediment of harmful acts. They are naked before God, they become pure. This fact of the ritual has fascinated me a great deal, because I too felt a desire for purity and to be rid of superfluousness in my musical expression, and a need to return to the tradition of a purer, less complicated musical language.
The subtitle ‘A collection’ is important to me. When composing this piece, I was going through a difficult period, gathering many negative as well as positive impulses. However, it was necessary for me to ‘collect’ most of them and start to rid them from my life. So, using the Mikva image, the whole piece floats in the spirit of that and presents a kind of personal journal of this process.
I constructed the piece based on my interest in using micro-intervals which I describe as ‘central re-application’. This approach is built on axial, or tonal, centers which act as a ‘gravitation power’, all intervals in turn going through micro-intervallic deviations. This creates a complex of tones, based on sacred geometry. In organizing the material, I use the idea of vesica piscis (a two-dimensional shape that is the intersection of two disks, intersecting in such a way that the center of each disk lies on the perimeter of the other), and Metatron’s cube (a three-dimensional geometric pattern of repeating, overlapping circles). In the piece, I use three centrical points and five tectonical areas. The selection of these numbers 3 and 5 refers also to their numerological meaning, especially number 5; this number is related to change, transformation, transmutation, and alchemy. The piece also builds on a bipolar attitude to archetypes of human listening, aesthetical value of beauty in music, of listening to consonances and dissonances. In my opinion, during stabilized listening to consonance it becomes more a dissonance and vice versa. Thus I consider a sharp vibration of very close micro-intervallic harmonies as a vibration of the heart, and fervour of the soul, of consonance, not dissonance. I also use repetitions and ostinato transformations of the material, thereby strengthening centrical axial points.
I am truly happy for the opportunity to create this piece, and with respect and thanks I hand it over to the PtJA. I believe that the mysticism which is so prevalent in Judaism will lead me towards new self-discovery, God and the whole universe. I am so looking forward to listening to this piece during the premiere performed by FAMA Quartet.
MgA. Daniel Chudovský
Mikva – ‘A collection’, for String Quartet, will be performed at an invitation-only concert in the Maisel Synagogue, Prague, on 21 September. Though not open to the general public, there are a limited number of tickets still available. To express an interest in attending please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.