Amos Elkana is a multi-award-winning composer. In their decision to award him the Prime Minister's Prize for Music Composition the jury noted that Elkana is the author of "very original music, independent of the prevailing fashion, guided by unique and delicate taste," and radiates "a strong sense of honesty."
"Arabic Lessons", a tri-lingual song-cycle in Arabic, Hebrew and German to the words of Michael Roes, was composed in 97-98 and premiered in the Berlin Festival in 1998. For this work Elkana received the Golden Feather Award from ACUM. In its review of Arabic Lessons, the Jerusalem Post called it "a perplexing, beguiling 40-minute opus in which the composer challenges the so-called 'acceptable' form of the lieder, shattering it and building it anew, as if constructing a new world from its ashes. ...Arabic Lessons is one of the most significant works composed in Israel for quite a while."
In 2006 Elkana composed "Eight Flowers" for solo piano in honor of György Kurtág's 80th birthday. The work was premiered that same year in Schloss Neuhardenberg near Berlin during a festival celebrating Kurtág and in his presence. Since then this work has been performed all over the world including the ISCM World Music Days in Sweden in 2009.
Elkana’s short opera "The Journey Home" comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by telling the true and incredibly touching story of a Palestinian man who lived in this troubled land during most of 20th century. The opera was commissioned by opus21musicPlus and premiered in the Gasteig Auditorium in Munich in 2013.
In 2013-2014 Elkana was invited to be a fellow for a year at the International Research Center »Interweaving Performance Cultures« in Berlin where he worked on his next opera "Nathan the Wise". This fascinating project brings Lessing's play to life as a tri-lingual opera. The original text was edited into a libretto in Hebrew, German and Arabic by Elkana's long time collaborator Michael Roes while preserving Lessing's unique poetic language.
Amos is also an active performer. He regularly participates in concerts and performances of improvised music where he plays the electric guitar and the computer. In 2010 he opened the International Literature Festival in Berlin giving a concert of his music for Recorded voices of poets, Electric guitar and electronics.
Eight Flowers are set of eight very short pieces for piano. Each piece was inspired by and named after a certain flower and together they form a bouquet.
The order and number of times in which each of these pieces are played are left to the performer's discretion. In this way it is as if he/she is arranging the bouquet of flowers to suit his/her own taste.
Premiered by Gabor Csalog on June 11, 2006 in Neuhardenberg, Germany, in a festival honoring György Kurtág on his 80th birthday.
Jun 11, 2006, Schinkel Church, Neuhardenberg, Germany
Nov 22, 2006, Music Academy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Oct 24, 2007, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
Feb 20, 2008, Schauplatz fuer moderne Kunst, Munich, Germany
Nov 21, 2008, 17th International Review of Composers, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro
Jun 15, 2009, Budapest science academy, Budapest, Hungary
Sep 28, 2009, ISCM festival, Vaxjo, Sweden
Dec 20, 2009, Chausseestr., Berlin, Germany
Oct 23, 2012, Einav Center | מרכז עינב, Tel Aviv | תל אביב
May 27, 2014, 10th National Gallery Music Festival, National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia
Dec 13, 2016, מוזיקה חדישה בקמפוס, בית הספר למוזיקה ע"ש בוכמן- מהטה, Tel Aviv, Israel
Solitude for Viola solo was written for the Romanian viola player Eugene Cibisescu-Duran, with whom I performed in Israel and Romania. The piece was first premiered in March 2010 in Cluj-Napoca. The first movement is rather elegiac in tone, starting with a single melodic line that develops into two polyphonic lines. The second movement is virtousic and fast, consisting of semi-quavers only which go from the extremely low to the extremely high end of the instrument's register. My intention was to give the movement a somewhat mechanical flavor, which is softened or contradicted by the fact that accents often occur in unexpected places.
Mar 10, 2011, Cluj-Napoca Music Academy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Performed by: Dan Weinstein - Cello, Topi Lehtipuu - Tenor, Peter Nadas - Narrator, Amos Elkana - Electronics
Whither do you go home is the title of a poem written about my father, Yehuda Elkana, by Péter Nádas. The poem, as well as the music, is divided into six parts. In the poem, the last verse is different from the first five. It is particular and personal as opposed to the first five. This is also apparent in the music; In the first five the cello is playing solo while his sound is fed into the computer and manipulated in real time. In the background the words of the poem are being heard on and off as whispers from the six speakers surrounding the audience. In the last part, six recorded versions of the last verse of the poem are heard simultaneously from the six surrounding speakers while the cello plays a single sustained note throughout. The vocal part was recorded by the tenor Topi Lehtipuu.
Az emberi elmét,
legalábbis Kant szerint,
olyan kérdésekkel gyötri meg –
ki is? -
talán a sorsa kínozza,
a személyesnél személyesebb élete
rázza ki belőle a hajtűkanyarokban
a legbanálisabb sorskérdéseket,
amelyekre nem tud válaszolni,
nem tudja elutasítani,
hacsak az ember a lélegzetvételét
nem utasítja el.
Hová mész haza.
maga az értelem teszi fel,
egyedül az elme hallatja ily halkan
a sors szavát,
vagy az értelem természetének szava
visszhangzik így a
koponyák velővel telített terében.
Ember nem született, ki
hová mész haza –
ha egyszer az értelemnek az
egyetlen sorsával együtt sincs
közös otthona -
csökönyös kérdéseid lepattannak
Egy dolog, mely több
örömében és fájdalmában sem tud
hiába rázza sorsa,
mintha egyetlen lenne vagy
nem tud úgy beszélni,
mintha egyetlen ne lenne több egynél.
Mégis ki mondaná,
hogy ne lenne,
a fájó hiánynak ne a gondolkodás lenne
egyetlen boldogitóan közös távlata,
válasz nélkül lógnak
kérdései a levegőben:
hol van otthonod,
nyugodj el elme,
Van egy kis amatőr képecske,
az első nagyipari
hosszú éveinek egyikében
Suboticán azaz Szabadkán,
egy családi albumban ragadt fenn,
kopár vidéki utca,
télikabátos komoly kisfiú,
a házunk volt,
Die menschliche Vernunft,
jedenfalls nach Kant,
belästigt er durch Fragen –
ja wer eigentlich? –
vielleicht quält ihn sein Schicksal,
schüttelt in den Haarnadelkurven
sein allerpersönlichstes Leben
die allerbanalsten Schicksalsfragen aus ihm,
die er nicht beantworten kann,
nicht zurückweisen kann,
nicht seinen eigenen Atemzug zurückweisen will.
Wohin gehst du heim.
gibt der Verstand selbst auf,
nur die Vernunft läßt so leise
des Schicksals Wort vernehmen,
oder es hallt
das Wort der Natur des Verstandes
im hirngefüllten Raum der Schädel so nach.
Nie wurde ein Mensch geboren, der hätte
wohin gehst du heim –
wenn nicht einmal der Verstand
mit seinem unwiederholbaren Schicksal
ein gemeinsames Zuhause hat –
deine störrischen Fragen splittern ab
das persönliche Vermögen
Ein Ding, das
die Summe von mehreren ist,
kann auch im Glück und im Schmerz nicht
vergeblich schüttelt es sein Schicksal,
als ob es ausschließlich über ein einzelnes verfügte, oder
es kann nicht so sprechen,
als ob ein einzelnes nicht mehr als eines wäre.
Und doch, wer wollte behaupten,
es sei nicht,
das Denken sei nicht des schmerzhaften Mangels
einzig beglückend gemeinsame Perspektive,
ohne Antwort in der Luft hängen:
wo ist dein Zuhause,
besänftige dich Vernunft,
irgendjemand so etwas.
Beginnen wir von vorn.
Es ist ein kleines Amateurbildchen
mit gezacktem Rand
in einem der langen Jahre
der ersten industriellen
an einem Sonntag
in Subotica sprich Szabadka,
haftengeblieben in einem Familienalbum,
eine Straße auf dem öden Land,
ein ernster kleiner Junge im Wintermantel,
es war unser Haus,
vor unserem Haus
at least according to Kant,
is tormented by such questions –
by whom? -
perhaps by its fate,
by the gods,
its immanently personal life
shakes out of it, in hairpin bends,
the most banal questions of life and death,
which it cannot answer,
unless one can reject one’s own breathing.
Whither do you go home.
are posed by reason itself,
reason alone can speak so softly
the language of fate,
or the words of reason’s nature
make such gentle echoes
in the marrow-filled space of skulls.
Never was a man born
who could answer:
whither do you go home –
wedded to its single destiny
cannot find its home -
your stubborn questions are repulsed,
A thing that is more
than its sum,
will be shaken by its destiny
to no avail,
it still cannot speak,
not out of joy, not out of pain,
it were a singularity,
or it cannot speak
a singularity were not more than one.
Still, who would say,
that it wouldn’t be,
that of this painful lack
the sole joyous common perspective
wouldn’t be thinking
its questions hang answerless
where is your home,
is there one,
reason be calm,
have a thing like this.
Let us start over.
There is a small amateur photo,
with jagged edges,
taken in one of the long years
of the first industrial size
burning of humans
in Subotica, that is, in Szabadka,
stuck in a family album,
a desolate small town street,
an earnest young boy in a great coat,
it was our house,
in front of our house
My friend, the sculptor Alexander Polzin asked me to compose a new piece for the unveiling ceremony of his sculpture of Giordano Bruno in Berlin which took place in March 2008. In preparation for this work I read a lot about Bruno and tried to find my own connection to the subject. As it happens Bruno was an admirer of the Maharal and he always wanted to meet him. It is not written anywhere that the two actually met but it is known that Bruno was in fact in Prague in 1588 at the same time when the Maharal was there.
This piece is inspired by the meeting that did (or did not) take place between the two men. In his fiction book 'Endless Things' John Crowley describes such a meeting.
Oddly enough, I have found out that I am a direct descendant of the Maharal. He is right there in my family tree which dates back to 1392!
This composition was completely revised in 2015.
Premiered on Mar. 2, 2008 in Berlin by Freyja Gunnlaugsdóttir
Mar 2, 2008, Potsdammer Platz, Berlin, Germany
Apr 17, 2008, jW-Ladengalerie, Berlin, Germany
Nov 21, 2008, 17th International Review of Composers, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro
In Hebrew "Shir" means "Song". It is a short virtuosic solo for flute that explores contemporary sound production techniques. This work is dedicated to Yossi Arnheim who is the principal flautist of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Arnheim premiered the piece in a concert series "The Flute at the Center" at the Jerusalem Music Center on January 23rd 1997.
Jan 23, 1997, Jerusalem Music Center, Jerusalem
Oct 24, 2007, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
Dec 18, 2007, Siemens AG, Auditorium, Munich, Germany
Performed by: Amit Dolberg (Piano), Amos Elkana (electronics)
Josef Tal's brilliant Piano concerto no.6 was composed in 1970 for solo piano and magnetic tape. On the occasion of the Israeli Music Celebration 2013, I was asked by Amit Dolberg to make a new version of the concerto with new electronic accompaniment that will replace the original tape created by Tal in his electronic studio back in 1970. My version makes use of technologies that were unavailable in Tal's lifetime and include real-time processing and randomized events which are triggered by the live piano playing.
היתה לי זכות גדולה להפגש ולשוחח מספר פעמים עם יוסף טל לאורך שנות התשעים. בפגישות המרתקות הללו שוחחנו בעיקר על סוגיות שונות במוסיקה. המוסיקה האלקטרונית והפוטנציאל הטמון בה תפסו בשיחות אלו מקום נכבד. טל היה מחלוצי המוסיקה האלקטרונית בארץ ובעולם ורעיונותיו בתחום זה היו רבים ומגוונים. הוא חקר ויצר מוסיקה אלקטרונית והשתמש לשם כך בכל הכלים שעמדו לרשותו. יחד עם זאת בשנה בה נכתב הקונצרטו השישי לפסנתר ואלקטרוניקה (1970) יצירת מוסיקה אלקטרונית באמצעות מחשב הייתה עדיין בתחילת הדרך. כדי למצות את הפוטנציאל הטמון במחשב היה צורך במחשבי על שהשימוש בהם היה יקר ונדיר. לקראת סוף המאה ועשרים נעשה השימוש במחשב הרבה יותר זמין ופשוט וטל היה סקרן מאד לדעת לאן דבר זה יוביל את המוסיקה האלקטרונית. דיברנו רבות על האפשרויות שנפתחו עקב כך. למשל, עיבוד אותות בזמן אמת ותהליכים רנדומליים.
Sep 9, 2013, Israeli Music Festival, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
"Reflections" is a work for violin and computer. In this work, the computer functions like a mirror by recording the violin and then playing back what was recorded through four speakers that are positioned beside the player. These recordings are not random, they happen in specific places and played back elsewhere. Sometimes this creates a multitude of voices where one can not distinguish between live violin playing and the recording (the recording is rarely processed). In fact, in certain sections the music sounds like it is an ensemble of violins playing together. In order for this to be effect successful it requires maximum accuracy and concentration on the part of the violinist.
The piece was written in 2014 for Yael Barolsky and dedicated to her.
גרתי בחדר מלא מראות
כל שיכולתי לראות הייתי אני
אז לקחתי את נשמתי
וריסקתי את כל המראות
ועכשיו את כל העולם רואה אני
(מילים: ג׳ימי הנדריקס)
״השתקפויות״ היא יצירה לכינור ומחשב. ביצירה זו המחשב מתפקד כמו מראה על ידי כך שהוא מקליט את נגינת הכינור ומשמיע את מה שהוקלט דרך 4 רמקולים הניצבים לצד הנגן. הקלטות אלה אינן אקראיות, הן קורות במקומות מסוימים מאד ומושמעות חזרה במקומות אחרים. לעיתים דבר זה יוצר ריבוי קולות שבהן לא ניתן להבדיל בין הכינור שמנגן בזמן אמת להקלטה שלו (ההקלטה עצמה לא עוברת עיבוד ומושמעת מהרמקולים בדיוק כפי שנוגנה). למעשה, בקטעים מסוימים נשמע כאילו מדובר באנסמבל של כינורות ולא בכינור בודד. כדי שהאפקט יהיה מוצלח מצד הסולן נדרשים דיוק וריכוז מירבי - מה שינוגן זה מה שיושמע.
היצירה נכתבה בשנת 2014 עבור יעל ברולסקי ומוקדשת לה.
Apr 24, 2014, Werkstatt der Kulturen, Berlin, Germany
May 1, 2014, Hateiva, Tel Aviv, Israel
Nov 21, 2014, Hateiva, Jaffa, Israel
Dec 19, 2015, קונצרט השקת דיסק של יעל ברולסקי, סטודיו המטריה, Jaffa - יפו, Israel
Jun 14, 2016, ContComp festival @ Haifa University, Hall 207, Haifa, Israel
Jul 21, 2016, HaTeiva, Jaffa, Israel
Jan 31, 2017, Meandering Forests, CCA, Tel Aviv, Israel
Feb 1, 2017, Meandering Forests, CCA, Tel Aviv, Israel
Jun 7, 2017, Israel Festival - Sound Charter, Jerusalem Theater, Jerusalem, Israel
According to Don Juan (Carlos Castaneda), the four natural enemies are Fear, Clarity, Power and Old age. Each of the 4 movements of this piece is inspired by an enemy in the order that Don Juan talks about. However, this is not program music. One can listen without knowing what inspired me in my writing and still, hopefully, enjoy the music and take something out of it.
Following is an excerpt from the book where Don Juan talks about the four natural enemies:
"When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize, for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.
"He slowly begins to learn - bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.
"And thus he has tumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: Fear! A terrible enemy - treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest."
"What will happen to the man if he runs away in fear?"
"Nothing happens to him except that he will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have put an end to his cravings."
"And what can he do to overcome fear?"
"The answer is very simple. He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself. His intent becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.
"When this joyful moment comes, the man can say without hesitation that he has defeated his first natural enemy."
"Does it happen at once, don Juan, or little by little?"
"It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast."
"But won't the man be afraid again if something new happens to him?"
"No. Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his life because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity - a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.
"And thus he has encountered his second enemy: Clarity! That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds.
"It forces the man never to doubt himself. It gives him the assurance he can do anything he pleases, for he sees clearly into everything. And he is courageous because he is clear, and he stops at nothing because he is clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If the man yields to this make-believe power, he has succumbed to his second enemy and will fumble with learning. He will rush when he should be patient, or he will be patient when he should rush. And he will fumble with learning until he winds up incapable of learning anything more."
"What becomes of a man who is defeated in that way, don Juan? Does he die as a result?"
"No, he doesn't die. His second enemy has just stopped him cold from trying to become a man of knowledge; instead, the man may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown. Yet the clarity for which he has paid so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again. He will be clear as long as he lives, but he will no longer learn, or yearn for anything."
"But what does he have to do to avoid being defeated?"
"He must do what he did with fear: he must defy his clarity and use it only to see, and wait patiently and measure carefully before taking new steps; he must think, above all, that his clarity is almost a mistake. And a moment will come when he will understand that his clarity was only a point before his eyes. And thus he will have overcome his second enemy, and will arrive at a position where nothing can harm him any more. This will not be a mistake. It will not be only a point before his eyes. It will be true power.
"He will know at this point that the power he has been pursuing for so long is finally his. He can do with it whatever he pleases. His ally is at his command. His wish is the rule. He sees all that is around him. But he has also come across his third enemy: Power!
"Power is the strongest of all enemies. And naturally the easiest thing to do is to give in; after all, the man is truly invincible. He commands; he begins by taking calculated risks, and ends in making rules, because he is a master.
"A man at this stage hardly notices his third enemy closing in on him. And suddenly, without knowing, he will certainly have lost the battle. His enemy will have turned him into a cruel, capricious man."
"Will he lose his power?"
"No, he will never lose his clarity or his power."
"What then will distinguish him from a man of knowledge?"
"A man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden
upon his fate. Such a man has no command over himself, and cannot tell when or how to use his power."
"Is the defeat by any of these enemies a final defeat?"
"Of course it is final. Once one of these enemies overpowers a man there is nothing he can do."
"Is it possible, for instance, that the man who is defeated by power may see his error and mend his ways?" "No. Once a man gives in he is through."
"But what if he is temporarily blinded by power, and then refuses it?"
"That means his battle is still on. That means he is still trying to become a man of knowledge. A man is defeated only when he no longer tries, and abandons himself."
"But then, don Juan, it is possible that a man may abandon himself to fear for years, but finally conquer it."
"No, that is not true. If he gives in to fear he will never conquer it, because he will shy away from learning and never try again. But if he tries to learn for years in the midst of his fear, he will eventually conquer it because he will never have really abandoned himself to it."
"How can he defeat his third enemy, don Juan?"
"He has to defy it, deliberately. He has to come to realize the power he has seemingly conquered is in reality never his. He must keep himself in line at all times, handling carefully and faithfully all that he has learned. If he can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are worse than mistakes, he will reach a point where everything is held in check. He will know then when and how to use his power. And thus he will have defeated his third enemy.
"The man will be, by then, at the end of his journey of learning, and almost without warning he will come upon the last of his enemies: Old age! This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one he won't be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.
"This is the time when a man has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind - a time when all his power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity, his power, and his knowledge.
"But if the man sloughs off his tiredness, and lives his fate through, he can then be called a man of knowledge, if only for the brief moment when he succeeds in fighting off his last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough."
\Plex"ure\, n. [See Plexus.] The act or process of weaving together, or interweaving; that which is woven together. --H. Brooke (Dictionary.com)
This duo is composed for the double-reed family of instruments. It features the Oboe, the English Horn and the Contrabassoon. The piece is divided into 4 sections that correspond to the AABA form. The degree of virtuosity required from the players is very high; the pitch ranges for the instruments are extreme but playing together and in time is probably as much of a challenge as reaching the notes at the extreme range of the instrument. This work is dedicated to my grandmother Miriam Keren and was premiered on the occasion of her 99th birthday.
Premiered by B. Schmutzler and D. Karamintzas on May 11, 2005 in Jerusalem, Israel
A panicle is a compound raceme, a loose, much-branched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers (and fruit) attached along the secondary branches; in other words, a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes.
מַכְבֵּד (panicle) - אשכול מורכב, תפרחת שבה הפרחים מסתעפים מענפים צדדיים, המסתעפים בעצמם מציר התפרחת. במלים אחרות, מכבד הוא מקבץ של אשכולות המסתעפים מציר משותף.
Tensegrity, is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension.
An Icosahedron is geometrical structure with 20 equilateral triangular faces.
This composition is made out of 20 miniature movements in no particular order. It is up to the performers to decide upon the order of the different movements.
All movements are created from the same raw material (an 8 tone set) and all are structured according to my fractal form principle.
Perhaps 24 views on the same object from different perspectives. A bit like looking through a kaleidoscope. The structure of this composition abandons the traditional way of development through time, climax, etc. Only transformation from one moment to the next. The Electric Guitar blends in as a legitimate instrument in chamber music. Its sound is clean and warm and style of playing is influenced by jazz guitar tradition.
Nov 10, 2009, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
Dec 20, 2009, Chausseestr., Berlin, Germany
Mar 10, 2011, Cluj-Napoca Music Academy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
This early piece of mine was written for three musician friends. I wrote in a fairly intuitive way, which is why it took me sooo long to compose... Its character is intimate, one could even say romantic?
Premiered by Liat Elkana, Ferenc Gabor and Julia Sverdlov on Feb. 19, 1993 at the Jerusalem Music Center
This work I composed for young saxophone players, so the task was not to make it too difficult to play. I was thus looking for an intense emotional spirit, and I ended up using a pentatonic scale in a very laconic way...
The second string quartet was written in 2004 for my father's 70th birthday. The work is composed of five parts. The first four are different from each other in atmosphere, rhythm and structure, but they are bound to each other through the musical motives which repeat themselves in various variations in each part. The fifth part is a kind of a musical summing up of the first four parts. In this part are heard, sometimes simultaneously, motives from the previous parts. This composition is written according to a composition method that I invented, inspired by the mathematics of fractals. The fractal is a geometrical form which is similar to itself at any level of breakdown at which we observe it. In other words: No matter how we look at its parts, the fractal will always be like its original form. The fractal is a common natural form: the leaf veins, blood vessels in our body, coast line, snow flake - in all these we can go into the finest detail and still feel as if we look at the whole picture. For composing music likewise, I use a series of numbers that dictate different durations within the work, from the level of the single note's duration up to the length of a whole movement. In this work the number series is 4-5-3-5-4. Thus, for example, the first movement is composed of 4 parts, the second of 5, the third of 3, the fourth of 5 and the fifth of 4. Likewise, the opening phrase of the work is composed of 4 notes, the next of 5, then of 3 and so on. The piece is not easily performed, mainly because it demands extremely high concentration and accuracy of the players. Although it is written in the common time signature of 4/4, the internal rhythmic division is very complex.
From the liner Notes to the CD By Prof. Ruth HaCohen
String quartets have been always an arena for compositional experiments as they were a venue of intimate if not arcane discourse. String Quartet no. 2 strongly belongs to this tradition, as to its rich vocabulary of articulation, thematics, and textural modes. Elkana, searching for “rigorous predefined form that will grant him liberty of ‘pouring’ music into them”, elaborated a “method of composition with ‘fractal’ configurations”, which he intensively and extensively uses in this work. The mathematical idea of fractals is that similar patterns recur at progressively smaller (or larger) scale. Fractals are everywhere around us, we perceive them in snowflakes and leaf veins, and they make up blood vessels and coast lines, enabling us to experience the whole in the detail. Inspired by this basic idea, in some of his works Elkana embarks by shaping predetermined tone matrix, which could contain any number of tones, in any order some even repeated within the original set from which he then draw certain numerical orders that will recur in various structural levels in the work he conceives. Thus differentiating his system from the 12-tone Schoenbergain method, Elkana still adheres, in the procedure he developed, to the latter’s basic permutational modes, to which he applies rules of selection to avoid arbitrary choice. Rhythm is likewise manipulated. The cohesive effect, though not easy to detect, is intuitively experienced due to the thick recursive connections between micro- and macro-levels including that of the entire work.
This, of course, does not exempt the composer from an imaginative, creative process and from giving each movement its own unique character and modes of unfolding. Thus in the first movement the highly profiled, soft and almost solemn opening theme, fugued through the four parts, will not be able to hold an immediate outburst of an abrupt homophonic gesture, and the alternation and conflation of these two basic utterances will furnish the basic dramatic infrastructure of the entire movement. Despite calculation (or maybe due to its constrains) the movement can be experienced as an essay on the rise and fall of tonal energy, in its basic, visceral undulations. The second movement is born from sustained sounds, which are ever there to collect all that transpires, into their serene duration, even the most capricious, frantic figuration which abound here as well. Tonal sustainability is embodied here in variety of being and becoming modes, and its presence is so strong throughout that even when it does not outwardly there we feel its presence. The brief scherzo-like third movement, a sort of peak in terms of the structure of the entire work, accentuates its edgy, almost ghost -like character through the sul ponticello (on the bridge) and other strings and bow effects, but no less by shaping temporal irregularities as a natural, inevitable flow. Ideas and sonorities from previous movements are recollected in the fourth, elegiac one, which searches, in different ways, for expression of unbeknownst yearn. Beethoven’s Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity, in the Lydian Mode” (String Quartet op. 132, 3rd movement) comes to mind. The fifth, a grand finale movement combines rondo-like construction with a playful recapitulation of moments and modes of being experienced throughout the work.
May 17, 2004, Henry Crown Auditorium, Jerusalem
Jun 16, 2004, Ido Tadmor's Dance Studio, Tel Aviv
May 17, 2005, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
Sep 18, 2007, Israeli Music Festival, Beer Sheva
Oct 24, 2007, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
In this three-movement quartet, I use my fractal method as the main compositional tool. The first movement starts off with all four strings playing short, isolated notes within the very narrow register of one single octave, the unique timbre of the instruments thus disappears and gives way to one single soundscape. Beginning with the cello, the instruments gradually pull out of the staccato soundscape by playing melodic legato lines that make use of the instruments' full register. The melodies find together and grow into the movement's climax, which is then followed by a pizzicato section, this time played by all four instruments on their very high register. The second movement is very short and mainly consists of a canon. The third movement goes back to the staccato feeling of the first movement while focusing this time on harmony, hence on the repetition of short chords rather than of single notes.
Premiered by the Akademia String Quartet on Oct. 15, 2001 at The Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.
Oct 15, 2001, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
"Four Loops" is an arrangement of the second movement from Arabic Lessons, a song-cycle written for three voices and a small ensemble. The second movement of the Arabic Lessons acts as an instrumental overture to the entire song-cycle. As the title suggests, the piece contains four loops, meaning, four melodic phrases that are repeated by the four instruments successively. There are four sections in this piece and each section deploys one of the four loops. In this piece, I used a method of composition that starts with the properties of a single note (pitch and duration) and then develops an entire piece out of it.
Premiered by the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet on Mar. 6, 1998 at The Tel Aviv Museum of Arts
Mar 6, 1998, Museum of Art, Tel Aviv
Sep 29, 2012, הקונסרבטוריון הישראלי למוסיקה, Tel Aviv | תל אביב
When composing the saxophone quartet, I was interested in the somewhat limited range of colors you are working with. Writing for different instruments is like writing with a full color palette, creating polyphony with four different saxophones on the other hand is like working with different shades of grey, it's about fine nuances and the gradual transformation of shades, rather than contrasting colors. I also liked to explore the particularly wide dynamic range of these instruments within the sensitive context of a chamber music ensemble.
Premiered by The Berlin Saxophone Quartet on Apr. 28, 1993 at Carnegie Hall in New York City
Apr 28, 1993, Weill Recital Hall - Carnegie Hall, New York City, United States
This work was written in 1995 for the New Israeli Quintet for Woodwind Instruments and was premiered by them at the Henry Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem that year. In the course of working with the quintet and from my knowledge of its members, I decided to insert a solo for each player, in which he is the dominant figure. In addition there is a middle part in which there is no soloist and all play together. The musical material of the quintet is based on a single chord of 5 notes, which appear in twelve variations. In each measure there is one appearance of the chord, so that the twelve measures contain all the possible appearances. Like a blues piece composed of twelve measures of specific harmonic content that repeat themselves over and over, also in this piece, the twelve measures repeat themselves indefinitely until the end.
Premiered by the New Israeli Woodwind Quintet on Mar. 20, 1995 at The Henry Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem, Israel.
Mar 20, 1995, Henry Crown Auditorium, Jerusalem
May 6, 1995, Tsavta, Kiryat Tivon
Oct 24, 2007, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
Revadim ('strata') is a work that I wrote for the Musica Nova Consort. The composition begins and ends with a single sounding E pitch and the whole work evolves around this note. Different modern playing techniques are required from the musicians throughout the composition. This piece is influenced by the micro polyphonic works of Gyorgy Ligeti.
Premiered by the Musica Nova Consort on Feb. 6, 1995 at The Tel Aviv Museum of Arts
Feb 24, 1995, Museum of Art, Tel Aviv
Mar 31, 1995, Emeq Izrael Music Center, Kibbutz Mizra
The hebrew word 'Saharuri' means 'Moonstruck' in english. This title was inspired by Schoenberg's 'Pierrot Lunaire' which uses the same instrumentation. As the title also suggests, the hebrew word is constructed of four Syllabls and so the work itself is constructed of four main sections. The series of four numbers, 4-7-6-6, governs the proportions of the composition from the micro organization of notes to the macro structure of the whole work. This series is treated like a fractal in the sense that the macro structure can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced-size copy of the whole.
Oct 19, 2014, Auditorium, Madrid, Spain
Oct 27, 2014, Sala Luis Galve del Auditorio de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain
Oct 28, 2014, Petit Palau de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Nov 2, 2014, Teatros del Canal de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Nov 29, 2014, Espacio Santa Clara de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain
The 13 poems that make the Arabic Lessons song cycle were written by the poet Michael Roes. Dr Roes wrote the poems in Arabic and then retranslated them into German (see the notes from the poet below). Professor Sasson Somekh of the Tel-Aviv University has kindly agreed to translate the poems into Hebrew from the Arabic original. The musical score of Arabic Lessons makes use of all the three languages. Some of the songs are sung simultaneously in Arabic, Hebrew and German. Each Song is scored using various instrumental combinations. There are two purely instrumental movements - one is the instrumental introduction "4 Loops" and the other is a solo for drum-set titled "Cannon". The work is composed in such a way so that it can be performed from beginning to end with no pause (ca. 35 minutes) or each song can stand alone as a composition by itself.
To read the poems click here.
From the liner Notes to the CD By Prof. Ruth HaCohen
If the European affiliation of the composer is well perceived in the first work, traversing in a musical time-machine distant eras, here it is his middle-eastern roots and concerns that he connects to the Germanic background of his ancestors. Languages and voices enter the scene; the poetry of the poet Michael Roes is the vehicle: “Arabic lessons” the poet calls it, and wishes to penetrate through learning the language the agonized worlds of conflict, occupation and memory. The lessons are further “studied” by the Israeli composer through their reflections in both Hebrew and German. The trilingual text thus combined is a difficult one, politically, emotionally: Jews’ ambivalence towards German, Arabs’ and Israelis’ suspicion towards each other’s language. Yet it is a triad that harbors hope: one of reciprocal listening, of understanding through difference, of people learning grammar, vocabulary and syntax of a basically unknown world that reveals itself through its loaded, inescapable political meanings. Feminine voices --three sopranos, are ideal carrier of this burden, this challenge. Each represents a single linguistic domain, which will be mingled or superimposed on the other. The rich, mellow and vibrant instrumental ensemble of flute, trumpet, saxophone, cello, bass guitar and percussion heightens atmosphere, accentuates meaning. In its chamber-like, accompanying character and relations to voices it calls to mind the famous ensemble of a Pierrot Lunaire. The 13 poems and two instrumental sections of the entire cycle thus consist of a variety of combinations of texture and structure, which never repeat themselves. First lesson starts with voice alone, in the language of the “third party“: German. It searches its way unsupported through practicing a “there is” structure (1. Es Gibt). The melody of the clear three-strophic construction intensifies itself from strophe to strophe while “breaking down”, in the third, a cracked “inventory” of what “is there”. Four (instrumental) Loops (2.) follow. A 9-tone theme (or row) bases the variegating motion they yield through contraction, expansion and metrical playfulness; now homophonic, now fugal, or even heterophonic – in a way that bring certain Mediterranean sonic textures to mind. The “lessons” further flow. Shaped like a medieval “conductus”, the Delegation lesson (3.) focuses on WH questions fraught with political existential sense. The tri-lingual point-counter-point proceeds from one fermata to the next – further punctuated by bass and drum – holding its rhetorical questions in the air. Where to stop? What adds to what? This becomes the major concern of the following lesson (4. Composed Words) performed by the Hebrew singer. Words can be composed into horrific, un/intended meanings and the thematic material now breathes “Israeliness”– tensed, full of angst. The composer “exchanges letters” -- and notes – with his fellow composers and predecessors, accentuates desperation, the peril of gross misunderstanding . In Roots (5.) the three languages/ vocalities further exhaust the potential of three-equal and rather wide-range voices, through imitative techniques that verge again on heterophony, with the middle voice – the German, acting sometimes as mediating between the two. Indeed, root structure characterizes Semitic languages and is foreign to German. Yet all languages, we learn, partake in “ruins of yesterday” and in homilies that are “destructive”. The musical allegory leads the trio, in the final section, to a 14th century hocketus: disrupted, choked alternating utterances, supported by the mellifluous sax. Short and highly intense solo Arabic “Present” - Alhader (5.) compresses voice and ensemble in a breathless, less than a minute utterance, as if there is no future, or no time. Basic vocabulary (6.) takes us into a busy market of words and idioms. Commodities are exchanged, also motifs – nervous, serpent-like; flute interlaces its waves, now exclaiming upon a new lingual merchandise, now uttering a help cry, now negotiating: can they understand each other, these separate agencies? Lists (7.), delivered in solemn German mode and Common Expressions (8.) follow; they manifest how lists may turn eerie and alternating proverbial utterances—when frenziedly exchanged or combined by the performing protagonists – shaking. In the last lessons/songs drums and trumpet becomes more prominent, sound more connected to real life. Thus in Future (10.) trumpet renders a declarative framework to which speaking voices – on pitch (German), without pitch (Hebrew) and melodically declarative (Arabic) – perform “a time before time”, transporting us to basics – of speech, voice, rhythm. Indeed, as lessons evolve, and we become more involved, the languages, qua performative languages, become more perceptible, each with its unique intonation, pronunciation, difference. Cairo (13.) and Jerusalem (15.) are entirely of this kind; separated by a rhythmical sermon (Canon 14.), basically unpitched, evoking a wasteland that extends between the two cities. Jerusalem, Elkana’s native city, where three Abrahamic religions encounter daily, is even more cacophonous, boisterous, violent than Cairo. So are the voices; the languages unadorned, the sonorous envelope of instrumental ensemble harsh and unavoidable. Who will win. Who will get closer to God. Who is the desired sacrifice on the holy mount. In the meantime, there is a wound that does not bleed but kills, word that does not fall, but chokes, blackening street sign and a pile of soap and fish flour.
Mar 6, 1998, Einav Center | מרכז עינב, Tel Aviv
Mar 9, 1998, Hochschule Der Künste, Berlin, Germany
Performed by: Roy Amotz - Flute, Moshe Aharonov - Violin, Amit Dolberg - Piano, Ira Givol - Bass Viol, Sharon Rosner - Bass Viol, Zohar Shefi - Harpsichord
I was asked to compose this work for a concert given by two Israeli ensembles - the contemporary music ensemble "Meitar" and the period instruments ensemble the "Israeli Bach Soloists". Each ensemble contributed three players for the joint ensemble: Violin, Flute and Piano from Meitar and 2 Bass Viols and Harpsichord from the Bach Soloists. The work begins and ends with short passages in baroque style played by the period instruments but in between there is development, transformation and expansion of the beginning passage in my own style. This work was composed during my residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbria, Italy in October 2010.
From the liner Notes to the CD By Prof. Ruth HaCohen “Casino Umbro" means "Umbrian Noise" or mess; the work was created during the composer’s residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbria. Noise it is, if one considers the juxtaposition and fusion of two diametrically opposed musical style and sonic concepts – a baroque and contemporary one – a blasphemous concoction. (The work was invited by two Israeli ensembles: the contemporary music ensemble "Meitar" and the period instruments ensemble "Israeli Bach Soloists".) But the spirit of lush Umbria penetrates the texture. The work is indeed a good one to enter into Amos Elkana’s sonic world: transparent despite complications, communicative though sophisticated, soft and exuberant, emotional and thoughtful. It embarks with a French baroque gesture, embellished, warm; modal D. A perpetuum mobile jazz-like piano figuration emerges from this solemnity, gradually sweeping the other participants into its “mechanical” gesticulations, until all are dancing a “fractal” dance on a kaleidoscopally ever changing, adding and subtracting pitch and rhythm patterns. These two sections determine a structure of the kind found in Beethoven’s late works (and then in Mahler, Bartok and others): an alternating structure, in which each contrasting section affects the next, which structurally refers back to the one before (in the spirit of an ABABA… form). The dreamy like section that follows the “fractal dance”, is thus a sonic and tonal admixture of both universes: impressionistic, fraught with novel sonorities, but allowing sporadically for “conventional” chords to flicker, soft and slightly embellished melodies to emerge. Fourth section is likewise reactive, becoming a more reflective, moderate dance, divulging how modern-jazz piano can find itself dialoguing with a baroque harpsichord, without each losing its idiomatic identity, encouraging the other actors to similarly behave. One can hear in another section a Schoenbergian Klangfarben Melodie as a natural development of forgoing events, followed by a Stravinsky-like recollection. And so it goes, until all is silenced back into a baroquian gesture – a whole tone higher, a universe apart.
Performed by: Shlomi Ben Atar (Oud), Shaul Bustan (Mandolin), Hed Yaron-Meirson (Violin), Lia Raikhlin (Violin), Maya Felixbrodt (Viola), Ayelet Lerman (Viola), Neta Cohen- Shani (Cello)
The idea behind this piece is to emphasize the "how" instead of the "what". In other words, it doesn't matter what you say (or play) but how you say (or play) it.
The music score of this piece uses colors and symbols to give the players an idea of how the music should sound like. Each musical parameter is divided into three levels, for example, dynamics are Soft, Medium or Loud and the player has to decide what exactly this means given the musical context. The actual tones that are being played are taken from a pool of tones, a matrix of rows and columns of tones that the players choose from. To better understand these concepts take a look at the score.
Performed by: Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Ferenc Gabor- Conductor
This piece is composed for the same exact instrumentation as Ligeti's own Chamber Concerto. I have always admired György Ligeti. I spent many hours studying his music and especially his Chamber Concerto for 13 instrumentalists. Ligeti died while I was working on this piece and I decided to make this work my homage to him.
Hommage à György Ligeti was composed using a compositional method that is inspired by the idea of Fractals. A series of four numbers (5,6,4,4) dictate the micro and macro structure of the work. This method of composition can organize not only the structure of a piece but also its pitch material, rhythmic material and more but, even if strictly applied, it leaves much room for intuition on the part of the composer.
Premiered on Nov. 21, 2008 in Berlin by the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, conducted by Ferenc Gabor
Version (2012): This is arranged for a symphony orchestra upon the request of the Israeli Music Festival 2012. I also added a section at the end that does not exist in the original composition.
Nov 21, 2008, Konzerthaus, Berlin, Germany
Sep 21, 2012, Recanati Auditorium, Tel Aviv Museum of Art | אולם רקנאטי במוזיאון תל אביב, Tel Aviv | תל אביב
This piece was written for the musicians with whom I spent a month at the 'Art OMI' residence in Upstate New York, hence the somewhat unusual instrumentation for flute, shakuhachi, bass clarinet, soprano and alto saxophone, djembe, electric guitar, viola, cello, harp and piano. In this work, I apply for the first time the fractal method that I've been working on for some time. This method of composition, which I call the fractal form, derives from the fractal notion that similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales: If you look at a fractal image and then zoom in on a part of the image, the zoomed in part looks exactly the same as the whole image. When applying this principle to music, I define a series of numbers - in this case 5-4-3-4-5 - as the fractal set which you can find on the smallest and the largest formal scale of the work. Apart from giving me a clearly defined structure into which I can pour my musical ideas, what I also like about this method is that the resulting composition comprises a sense of order that one can perceive on a subconscious level, even if not on a conscious one.
Premiered by the Art OMI ensemble on Aug. 18, 2003 at the Goethe Institute in New York City.
Aug 18, 2003, Goethe Institute, New York City, United States
Performed by: Richard Stoltzman - Clarinet, Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerzy Swoboda - Conductor
Tru'a, which in Hebrew literally means "fanfare", was written for the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. The piece is homage to the composer Witold Lutoslawski who was a great influence and a source of inspiration for me. The work was recorded in August 1997 by MMC Recordings, featuring Mr. Stoltzman and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Jerzey Swoboda. The work begins with an introductory part composed of very high pitched sounds (overtones) produced by the first violin section (divided into four groups) and a sustained high C overtone produced by the second violin section. At the same time, there is a bass drone produced by the basses and timpani. The clarinet part is very demanding, since it uses extreme dynamics and some unorthodox sounds that require an excellent playing technique.
From the liner Notes to the CD By Prof. Ruth HaCohen
Tru’a – in Hebrew both fanfare and ululation, especially when referring to the Shofar blasts in the synagogue during the Days of Awe – this highly imaginative work of the young composer wavers between the two modes, here embodied by the brilliance of a concerto style and real moments of fanfaric calls (e.g. arpeggios in 3’51’’ and in the virtuoso solo cadence) and the entreating mode of the existential calling of the shofar (as in 1’50’ and 6’03’). Even the synagogal congregation is here, through its traditional “heterophonic chant mumbling” embodied by the orchestral “virtual agents” (which, paradoxically enough, the composer achieves by using the sonic technique associated with the Polish composer W. Lutoslawsky) so typical to the (Ashkenazi) synagogue (and the reason for accusing it as “noisy”). The solo clarinetist, celebrating the abundance of gestures, expressions, implorations and explorations, redolent of so much of the literature written for and played by this instrument throughout the 20th century and before, must perform it all as a grand ex-temporation (though every note, dynamic change, trill or articulation effect is written down) as a ravishing play with temporalities, inspiring and sweeping the rich orchestral body in thousands of ways.
Dec 3, 2011, Taipei National University of Arts Music Hall, Taipei, Taiwan
Oct 15, 2012, Henry Crown Auditorium, Jerusalem | ירושלים
Performed by: Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra - Robert Black (Conductor)
Color in Time is a unique blend of orchestral colors, where the orchestra as a whole plays against a percussion rhythm section: the back beat of a drum and the exotic, almost Borodin-like top beat of cymbals, chimes and bells. It throbs and throbs until something very dark happens: the music slows and becomes a Stravinsky-like series of dissonant chords which pulsate like something coming to life, then come together in one long chord frozen inside the music. This chord then grows into a sinister and angry pulse, which is broken by the crash of a gong.
This gong is an announcement, a prelude to the series of dissonant notes that follows, notes kaleidoscoping of one another like pieces of colored glass, creating a strange and fascinating pattern. This pulse builds and the strings go into a pizzicato dirge as the composition picks up speed, moving faster until the glass shards lose their color and become black, then explode with a cymbal crash. The piece ends here, but we have been pulled into it. All we have left is silence as our ears strain to hear more. (from the CD booklet)
Performed by: Konstantia Gourzi, conductor; Anna Stylianaki, soprano; Susanne Drexl, mezzo-soprano; Aco Biscevic,tenor; Raphael Sigling, bass; Ensemble opus21musikplus
A short opera in Arabic and Hebrew based on a true story.
It is the 1920's. Ali, a Palestinian boy from Nablus, has reached his 18th birthday and becomes a man in his own right. Instead of going into the family business and contrary to his father's wishes, Ali decides to leave home and go to the big city, to Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem Ali meets and befriends Eliahu, an elder Jew, who invites him to his home for Shabbat. For the first time in his life Ali becomes acquainted with Jewish people and their customs. He is deeply moved by their hospitality and is fascinated by their culture and decides to convert to Judaism.
Ali quickly becomes an important figure in his new society. He is respected in the synagogue and his Hebrew is flawless. His new name is Avraham. He finds a good job, he has money, he is tall and handsome. After a short time Avraham meets a Jewish woman, Yehudit, and they fall in love. The couple gets married and move in together. They have children and everything goes well except for the relations between Avraham and Yehudit’s mother. The mother can’t stand him and constantly insults him and makes his life miserable.
One day, after another terrible fight between them, Avraham leaves his house and wanders the streets in agony and despair. A British police officer finds him and thinks he looks suspicious. Avraham looks drunk, he mumbles in Arabic and Hebrew and when Avraham cannot produce an ID upon request, he arrests him and takes him into custody. In detention no one believes Ali's story. His family doesn’t even know where he is. After sometime his parents from Nablus learn about his situation and they come to visit him. They manage to convince the authorities to set him free on one condition that he goes back to Nablus with them. At first Ali refuses. He still believes that his Jewish family will come and release him. After a while his parents come to visit him again and this time they manage to persuade him to go back with them.
Shortly after, in 1948, war breaks out and the borders between Israel and Palestine close. Ali cannot return to Jerusalem. Despite his wishes he now lives with his parents in Nablus. After a while he meets a local Muslim woman. They fall in love and get married. Ali has a new family now.
20 years later, after the 1967 war, Ali writes a letter to his Jewish family. He is terminally ill. He asks to see them for the last time. Shortly after Ali dies. Everyone, Jews and Arabs, attend his funeral.
Oct 4, 2013, Carl Orff Saal, Gasteig, Munich, Germany
Oct 5, 2013, Carl Orff Saal, Gasteig, Munich, Germany
Oct 6, 2013, Carl Orff Saal, Gasteig, Munich, Germany
Performed by: Amit Dolberg (piano), Sascha Goetzel (conductor), Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion
...with purity and light... is a piano concerto composed in 2015. It was commissioned by the Israel Symphony Orchestra and premiered by them with Amit Dolberg on piano and Sascha Goetzel conducting.
Like the architect who sketches the outline of a new house before going into details, so do I with a new piece of music. I outline the structure by dividing a certain time frame into sections and subsections. This formal outline is built using the mathematical principle of fractals* which use concepts of self similarity and recursion. (I have used the same method for most of my compositions since 2003. The algorithm is similar but the numbers are different every time.)
Only then I begin to enter sounds into the form. The sounds bring the form to life and give it meaning. In most of my instrumental music there are no extra-musical motivation - a sound is there because of the sound that came before (or after) it.
I found the title for this piece "...with purity and light..." in a poem by Rumi after searching some texts which are close to my heart and that had a phrase which answer to the following criteria: the phrase has to be made up of four words while the first word is 4 letters long, the second is 6, the third is 3 and the last is 5. These numbers reveal the ratios of the time-fractal that was used in this composition - 4,6,3,5.
*Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos. (http://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-are-fractals/)
In 1974, when I was seven years old, I received a letter from America. On the envelope was written my name, preceded by the title "Master". This impressed me immensely; it was the first time that I was treated with such formal respect. The letter itself was even more impressing: It was beautifully typed in with a typing machine, the lines were all over the place, but in perfectly coherent order - from top to bottom, diagonal and backwards. It was a very funny letter and it also included a little ditty that I learned off by heart. The letter was signed: Uncle Bob.
In connection with the work of my artist friend, Alexander Polzin, and since I did it as a child myself, I recorded 23 friends on their first attempt at reading this ditty. One to six of these recordings are randomly selected from the pool of 23 recordings and are played, alongside my solo flute composition "Shir", from six loudspeakers that are placed around the room creating the funny effect of several different voices 'breaking their teeth' while trying to read this ditty:
A tutor who tooted the flute, Tried to tutor two tutors to toot. Said the two to the tutor, 'Is it harder to toot, or to tutor two tutors to toot?'
Jun 7, 2009, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
An historic building on Lilenblum Street in Tel Aviv was going to be renovated and sold. This building used to house the secret headquarters of the high command of the Haganah organization. Until the time the renovation begins, it was given to the artist and curator Hadas Kedar who invited several artists to exhibit site specific works in the various abandoned spaces in the building.
I was given the former communication room. My work involves manipulated recordings of various Haganah leaflets and other related sounds and electronics. It was heard inside the room by hidden speakers.
First installed from Oct. 4-31, 2007 at the High Command exhibition in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In Auden's lengthy poem, The Age of Anxiety, he follows the actions and thoughts of four characters that happen to meet in a bar during the Second World War. Their interactions with one another lead them on an imaginary quest in their minds in which they attempt, without success, to discover themselves. The themes and ideas that The Age of Anxiety conveys reflect his belief that man's quest for self-actualization is in vain. The Age of Anxiety is, in general, a quest poem. Unlike the ideal quest, however, this quest accomplishes nothing. The characters search for the meaning of self and, in essence, the meaning of life, but because their search is triggered by intoxication, the quest is doomed from the start. Throughout the quest, the characters believe themselves to be in a kind of purgatory, gradually descending toward hell. They fail to realize this due to "the modern human condition which denies possibility but refuses to call it impossible" (Nelson 117).
Alexander Polzin's series of 99 paintings based on Auden's poem grew out of the artist's fascination with "...the unusual mixture of poetic quality, clear meaningful sentences and rich images." The series was made in 1999, which is one of the reasons the artist decided to paint 99 paintings. The other reason being his strong desire to accomplish the nearly impossible task of composing 99 paintings simultaneously. Polzin divided the text into 99 segments after reading the poem over and over again developing his own "melody" of the text. He also wanted to highlight some of the sentences in the poem by disconnecting them from their surroundings. The anxiety in the poem, for Polzin, is hidden under several layers of meaning and so in his paintings he decided to use a technique of layering. At the bottom layer of each painting he pasted a segment of the text and painted the number of that segment corresponding to his own subdivision of the text. He then created layers of paint and images on top of that sculpting out the parts he wanted to emphasize. Through this process most of the text and numbers became invisible.
The sound source for this installation is largely based on a recording of five actors (four characters and one narrator) reciting the poem in a bar. During this process the actors were encouraged to drink as much as they wanted so as to recreate the mood of the original poem. The bartender was generous enough to turn off the background music during the recording and so the only background sounds are bar noises made by people drinking, conversing, laughing, playing pool, etc. Different layers of sound are created by transforming the bar recording electronically. These layers become alternately 'visible' and 'invisible' by fading them in and out. One of the electronic sound layers is created by analyzing 12 peaks from the recorded voice and connecting these peaks to 12 oscillators. The result is a sort of a modified reproduction of the actual voice recording. Another layer that is present is the sound of a quartet of wind instruments - tuba, trombone, trumpet and clarinet. Each instrument corresponds to a different character in the poem. These instruments are actually very high-quality samples of real instruments. Each note was recorded several times in different dynamic levels and different modes of attack. Extended playing techniques were also recorded and used. The actual notes that these instruments play are generated by a quasi-random process that uses a phrase, instead of a single note, as it's basic point of departure. The first thing that is determined on this level is the phrase duration. Since we are dealing with wind instruments, it has been taken into consideration that in normal situations the player of a wind instrument should have time to breathe after about 20 seconds of continuous playing. For each phrase the program decides: 1) What permutation and transposition of the row to play from a twelve tone matrix. 2) The durations of the notes in the phrase. 3) The dynamic range of the notes (for example, mp is not a constant level but a range). 4) The style of playing - staccato, legato, flutter-tongue, trills, etc. 5) The instrumental register - high, medium or low. What creates a relationship between the voices of the different instruments is that the phrases they all play are derived from the same source - the 12-tone matrix. Another layer is made out of percussion sounds that are triggered by the recording of the actors. The program picks out the 'attacks' of the recorded voice and these attacks trigger the percussion samples. Other transformations of the bar recording include pitch-shifting, delaying and spatializing. All of the sounds that are used in this piece are spatialized around the room by using four speakers that are placed in the four corners of the room.
First installed from Apr. 6 - 29, 2006 at the Goethe Institute in New York City.
Apr 7, 2006, Goethe Institute, New York City, United States
Jul 16, 2006, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, United States
Jan 22, 2007, Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem
Feb 21, 2007, International Artists House, Herzliya, Israel
Performed by: Miriam Keren - Voice, Amos Elkana - Computer
When my grandmother turned 100, I composed her favorite poem as my birthday present to her. The poem was Gefunden by Goethe. I recorded her reading the poem in the German original as well as in the Hebrew translation. My intention was to capture the essence of the poem as she understood it. I decided not to "clean" her recordings thus retaining tiny lingual mistakes, laughs of embarrassment, her comments on the text and other noises. Born in 1906 in Berlin and immigrating to Israel in 1933, she lived 27 years in Germany and 75 years in Israel and although she lived in Israel and spoke Hebrew most of her life, her German was flawless (with a distinct Berliner accent) while her Hebrew was not. The poem itself tells her story - a story of a forced uprooting and relocation.
Premiered on May 11, 2006 in Jerusalem, Israel.
May 11, 2006, Meir House, Jerusalem
Jun 14, 2006, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, United States
Sep 16, 2010, BELÉM ARTS CENTRE PASSEIO PEDONAL, Portugal
Sep 16, 2010, Cafe Global, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany
Sep 6, 2011, HaZira Performance Art Arena, Jerusalem
For: Electric Guitar, live electronics and recorded voice
Year: 2006 | Dur.: 8min.
Performed by: Amos Elkana (E-Guitar and electronics)
Lies and lethargies was composed for the opening of an exhibition by the German painter Alexander Polzin titled "The Age of Anxiety". The title of the exhibition comes from the famous poem by W.H.Auden. The text that is heard in this piece is taken from a monologue by the figure Rosetta, which appears in Auden's poem. The monologue opens with the sentence "Lies and lethargies police the world in its period of peace..." and it expresses disgust with the repressed and frightened character of the human being and his inability to learn from past mistakes. There are four characters in Auden's poem but this difficult and sarcastic text is said by the one figure that is both a woman and a Jew. Both the recorded text and the guitar sound are fed into the computer, which performs various real time manipulations on the sound.
Premiered by Amos Elkana on Dec. 10, 2006 at the Felicja Blumental Music Center in Tel Aviv
Dec 10, 2006, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
Jan 22, 2007, Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem
Feb 21, 2007, International Artists House, Herzliya
Oct 18, 2007, Negev artists house, Beer Sheva
Oct 24, 2007, Felicia Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv
Nov 24, 2007, Bimat Meitsag, Tel Aviv
Mar 4, 2008, jW-Ladengalerie, Berlin, Germany
Sep 16, 2010, Cafe Global, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany
For: Voices, Electric Guitar, Piano, Percussion and electronics
Year: 2009 | Dur.: 22min.
Hamlet is a play that remains relevant in our world today on many different levels. We were particularly interested in how revenge - then and now - creates a sort of snowball effect of collateral damage. Revenge is a never-ending cycle. There will always be retaliation and unintended victims. The story of Hamlet begins with one ghost demanding revenge for his foul death. This demand stems from the belief that if one is wrongfully killed, one becomes a ghost that cannot rest in peace until its death is avenged. In the pursuit to fulfill this demand Hamlet is responsible for nine more people suffering wrongful deaths and, as this logic goes, they too would become ghosts. In due time they will demand their own revenge. And so the vicious cycle will continue endlessly...
This piece was created in collaboration with director and choreographer Sommer Ulrickson and artist Alexander Polzin for a dance-theatre performance in Berlin after rethinking and developing our collaborative work "Zwischenspiel". The music was all prerecorded and played back through loudspeakers. All parts except number 2 are electronic compositions while part 2 is for solo Guitar.
For: recorded Guitar, recorded Piano, recorded voice and electronics
Year: 2000 | Dur.: 9min.
Performed by: Amos Elkana (Guitar + Piano + Electronics), Alexander Polzin (Voice)
This piece was created in collaboration with the choreographer Sommer Ulrickson and artist Alexander Polzin. The main theme of the work is 'manipulation' and the responsibility of the artist and was partially inspired by the life of the Nazi filmmaker Lenni Riefenstahl. The composition's two parts were prerecorded and use computer manipulated sampled sounds as well as acoustic Guitar and Piano recorded by the composer. A letter written by the Hungarian writer Peter Nadas of his thoughts about Lenni Riefenstahl is recited in German as part of the recorded music.
Premiered on Oct. 26, 2000 at Podewil Center for Contemporary Art in Berlin, Germany.
This music, developed for a dance performance by the choreographer Yael Kramski, comprises electronic music as well as a live Violin part. For the electronics I recorded the actor's voices, processed them and intermingled them with synthesized sounds.
Premiered on Feb. 4, 1998 at Z.O.A in Tel Aviv, Israel.
What is our self, what is capable of destroying it, and how can it be recovered? These and other difficult questions are at the heart of "Never Mind", an interdisciplinary stage production by choreographer Sommer Ulrickson and molecular biologist and writer Giovanni Frazzetto. The play "Never Mind" an experiment at the interface of science and theater, will premiere at the Sophiensaele on January 25, 2012.
The two-part evening deals with, among other things, the Capgras syndrome, a neurological disorder that occurs frequently as a result of brain injury or severe dementia. First described by French psychiatrist J. M. Joseph Capgras, it is a very rare syndrome, where patients believe that close friends and relatives have been replaced with identical-looking doubles. While otherwise showing normal behavior, Capgras sufferers perceive close acquaintances, often even close friends and partners, as imposters. The patients recognize the faces, but lack the ability to link them with emotional body reactions. The production, which is the result of an intense cross-disciplinary collaboration between a scientist and an artist, examines the fragility of relationships as well as the frustration of everybody involved when dealing with psychic disorders. Trying out new forms of dance and music theater, the play does without traditional dramatic means such as, for example, a linear storyline and sees science - in this case neurological theories on the Capgras syndrome – as an "expanded and dominating theatrical metaphor."
Through a tension-filled yet exciting dialectic, this work illustrates both the potential of neurobiology and its helplessness when it comes to existential questions about the "true self." Ulrickson and Frazzetto see their "neuro performance" as part of a curious inquiry that employs artistic reflection to communicate to the public the highly complex findings of an "expert-based science." Scientific material is examined and expanded through theatrical means. Conversely, the theatrical performance feeds on facts collected during scientific experiments. The project aims to foster a productive dialogue between science and art.
Pinter's disturbing but relevant play translated into Hebrew and recorded by two men whose voices are heard from the speakers on stage. A single performer reacts to the recorded dialog with gestures and movement but without words. The sounds that the performer makes on stage are picked by the microphone that is hanging above the stage. These sounds are processed in real time by a computer and output through the speakers.
Nov 22, 2013, Composer-Choreographer project, Hateiva, Jaffa, Israel