Brussels Philharmonic | politics, soundworlds, ecstatic, privacy

Ecstatic Soundworlds and the Politics of Privacy

Ecstatic Soundworlds and the Politics of Privacy

Unrestricted, energetic, explosive – Mirela Ivičević is one of the most enthralling composers of her generation. Her works are performed at international festivals and interpreted by well-respected ensembles such as Klangforum Wien and Ensemble Nikel. A number of her pieces were developed with the close collaboration of the Black Page Orchestra, a heterogeneous ensemble which she helped to establish in 2014. Ivičević was born in Split, Croatia in 1980. She studied composition with Željko Brkanović, Klaus-Peter Sattler and Beat Furrer.

Is it possible for the senses to produce resonances amongst themselves? Is it possible to acoustically represent that which is remembered and experienced and: how much abstraction does such a translation need and how much can it tolerate if it is to lead us into the realm of the imagination? The composer Mirela Ivičević transforms sensual and emotional, as well as political and social impressions into haunting and suggestive works. She has no qualms with the processing of personal experiences, on the contrary – her oeuvre and biography are closely intertwined. She writes herself into her pieces, staking her place. Ivičević is not concerned with a simple translation of her experiences. Her approach is much more emotional, sensual and immediate. She extends her experiences into a sound so as to become a discovery, an invention. At the same time, what is narrated always remains in limbo. In a critical examination of society, but also of her own emotional world, Ivičević enters into historical, intimate or semi-fictional realms. What preoccupies her are the micro- and macro-political questions. Many of her works revolve around self-empowerment she herself has experienced. They tell of relationships, of sexuality and pregnancy, but also of powerlessness, of war and destruction. They demand independence and freedom, a space free of ideologies and power dynamics. This occurs not only on a conceptual but also on an acoustic level. Dominant orders, hegemonic relationships, are suspect to Ivičević, no matter in which context. It is a matter of rebelling against them, of going against borders, taboos and fixed meanings. As a result, she is not a composer of shy notes. Her music roars, it rears up, it shrieks and falls away, it curses and moans. Hyperactive structures and high densities run towards ecstatic outbursts, an acoustic inferno, a great stroke of liberation. Tense and anarchic, Ivičević's compositions resemble rebellious acts.

Reality reloaded

Inspired by film, theatre and opera, the composer creates – in her own words – "sonic fictions" that are located somewhere between the remembered and the imagined. In this surreal world, flickering between virtual and actual, the most diverse sounds and languages can coexist. Their otherness is given a sense of the serious and they thereby enter into a relationship with each other. Dichotomies are suspended. Collaging and sampling evidence of the real, acoustic impressions of contemporary society enables her to produce alternative realities in the hope that they will teach us something new. These realities – laced with arcs of tension and harsh contrasts – speak to a collective unconscious. They play with intensities and effects. Ivičević masters the mysterious and the secretive, as well as drawing us in to suspense and horror.

According to the composer, every sound carries its own context, its own cultural imprint; no sound is neutral. Ivičević thus wishes to release a transformative energy in her music. She deconstructs languages and removes sonic elements from their natural surroundings in order to dramatically democratise them. It is a political move, a commitment to a heterogeneous, multi-perspectival world. By using the most diverse sound generators, equalising contexts and quoting diverse popular music genres – from jazz to pop to noise, rock and film music – reality finds a counterpart in complexity. Ultimately, it is an attempt to break out of art and into life.

Sweet Dreams (2019)

"The beginning, for me, stems from experiences, from the fascinating or shocking. These are never silent images. There is almost always a sonic aspect – spoken words or sounds of various kinds. For me, they are the raw materials from which I produce my works. They are processed compositionally."
- Mirela Ivičević

Music literature is dominated by the male view of the world: few and far between are examples of the thematisation of female subjectivity. Getting personal requires courage, and so it is that female worlds of experience play a major role in Mirela Ivičević's work. Questions of identity, queerness and otherness already surround the pieces of the Dominosa series. In Sweet Dreams, the composer enters the intimate world of her pregnancy. Ivičević's visions of the mysterious development of new life is reflected here in a thrilling soundscape: undertaking copious research on what embryos perceive in the womb, what sounds are transmitted through the mother's body. But Ivičević reverses this question. She sets the sleeping phases of her unborn child to music and translates her own perceptual world as a dual one, her own and the dream world of the embryo. In this introspective, multidimensional sound world, phases of the highest emotion can be found. These are moments of great tension, modelled on the REM sleep phases of the embryo. In rapid contrast, there are phases of rest structured by a slow pulse beat - the heartbeat pattern of the child. Unexpectedly and surprisingly, we shift from one episode to the next. Surreal images flash up, dreamlike associations. Ivičević manages without typical sounds of the uterus. Nothing rushes here. Rather, something tense and mysterious permeates the composition. The listeners are invited into an alternative world of perception, as if on a voyage of discovery.

Shilla Strelka

© Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation