Stéphane Furic - Leibovici & Almut Kühne
Notes by Victoria Jordanova

French composer Stéphane Furic - Leibovici dedicated his whole life to music, with unwavering conviction and artistic integrity. His latest work, the song cycle INNERLAND, is a fascinating neo-modern-romantic contemplation on music and poetry.

Although INNERLAND is presented as a fifteen-track gapless recording, the individual tracks (seven poems set to music, seven incises and a final track that transcends them all) can be accessed separately, in any order. The seven poems will be discussed below. The word "Incise" ("Cut") is used to describe the tracks that consist of the samples of music material extracted from the songs and inserted between them to serve as the connective tissue of the piece. In "Confins" ("On the Edge"), the final track, the composer symbolically steps out of his work in order to comment on it by recording a combination of his instructions to the performers and the summary of the basic vocabulary of sounds used in INNERLAND.

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The seven poems that Stéphane Furic - Leibovici set to music were written by seven different poets over a period of several centuries, dating from the Middle Ages to our time. The choice of the poetry is the testament to the composer's good taste and to his interest in the powerful romantic lyricisms found in all of the poems. The central motif of the piece is love, understood as both "romantic love" and "being in love with nature." However, INNERLAND is also a story about a journey. The travelogue of this journey reads like a voyage of a fragmented psyche through the paysage of dreams. During his musical travels through this “innerland,” the composer ponders the relationship between the reality and one's perception of reality while he mentally revisits the sentiments and impressions from his past. The poets – who, like Hölderlin’s Wonderer, eternally roam through the inner human landscape – offer their lyrics which both lend the composer a welcoming shoulder to lean on and provide the conceptual underpinnings for his music.

With masterful control over every detail and nuance, the composer borrows the exquisite voice of Almut Kühne to tell us an eerie story: a tale of love, perhaps of a great lost love. It is an account of being lost in and wandering through the interior landscape of one's heart, searching for the path that leads back to the outside world. Almut sings, speaks, and whispers to us, and she stuns us with bursts of vocal virtuosity.

The piece is lightly scored, for two trombones and a voice - but the music is not "lite." With masterful economy of means used for the dramatic interpretation of the lyrics, the composer draws us into his world where he melds music with poetry. While listening to INNERLAND, the audience will feel special, like confidants allowed access into an inner sanctum.

In The Tiger by William Blake (1757-1827) the singer, like an ancient storyteller, describes to her listeners who are sitting wide-eyed around the fire a mythical creature of great power, elegance, and courage. The scary vocal narrative is intercepted with silences full of suspense. When the trombones accompany the voice a major second apart, the song calls to mind eastern European folk music.

The Griechenland by Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) is an ode to a glorious day - a magical journey across a mountain and through gardens above the sea. The composer renders this song as a ballad. The protagonist is a solitary Wonderer, one with nature and yet full of his own inner turmoil. The music follows the elation of the lyrical description all the way to its climax and then, when there is no place left to go, the composer decides to sustain the emotion by making the music stop. The voice breaks into short syllabic repetitions of a single note, breathless - decisively dissonant and lyrical at the same time.

In Per mezzi’ boschi inhospiti ("Through inhospitable wild woods"), a sonnet by Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374), the hero is in love and feels shielded by it while walking through the dangerous woods, where "even armed men fear to walk through." He sings while walking, like a child who sings to chase the monsters away. The interior dialogue between two sides of the self, fear and happiness, is musically beguilingly portrayed by reassuring repetition of the calming motif, played by the trombones, in answer to the anxious phrases of the voice.

As in a miniature opera, fragments of action and reflection follow each other in L'alba ("Sunrise") by Raimbaut de Vacqueryas (1180-1207). The sad irony of the lyrics shines through the music of discord between the instruments and the voice. In this imaginary performance similar to that of the Provençal troubadours, the singer plays the castanets to match her perfectly intoned high staccato notes and shakes the tambourine during her wild trills on one note. She claps her hands at the beginning to "wake up the lovers who, unfortunately, must part at sunrise."

In Querido manso mio ("My Gentle Beloved") by Lope de Vega (1562-1635), the atonal phrases of passionate outbursts of vocal virtuosity break up the spellbinding folk-like melody written as an accompaniment to the pastoral and erotic lyrical images of the poem.

Charles d'Orleans (1394-1465), another medieval poet represented here, is called a father of the French lyric poetry and was reputedly the sender of the first "valentine." But his Rondelay - En la forê de longue attente ("In a Dark Wood Wandering") is far from being a frivolous courtly love poem. Instead, his hero is a romantic Wonderer, similar to the one in Hölderlin’s Greichenland. He laments the loss of youth and his long lost love and now feels lost in the "dark loneliness" of old age. However, he wishes to believe that his lost youth and all the years of his life were not spent for naught, but that the memories of those good times will sustain him in his old age.

Franchissement ("Crossing Over") is a simple but poignant episode of emotional upheaval composed as one slowly ascending and one slowly descending microtonal glissando in unison. Along the way up and down, the singer invokes a series of single words, extracted from the lyrics, each carrying a portent-message. The graphic score of Franchissement is equally dramatic and resembles the upward displacement of a section of the earth's crust.

A master of symbolic romantic imagery William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), in his famous The Second Coming recalls a gruesome sport of falconry in which the wild avian predator is trained to swoop down in a gyre and hunt small animals. In response to the lyrics, the music is

written as the embodiment of "romantic madness, "similar to that of Schumann, Beethoven, or Jean Barraqué. In this song, the composer excels in his prowess and through a veritable compositional rampage emulates that "dreadful text filled with the accents of bestiality." The Second Coming is a twenty-seven minute long song which can be performed independently from the rest of the cycle. This song is a testimony to Stéphane Furic-Leibovici's compositional craft as well as a proof of his deeply felt artistic concern about the pathology of human cruelty and the destruction and suffering that humans inflict on the contemporary world.

We can easily imagine Stephane at the Alte Nationalgalerie (National Museum) in Berlin, upon his arrival there in 2010, standing in contemplation before the Caspar David Friedrich's Monk by the Sea (1810). The painting portrays a solitary figure on the beach dressed in monk robes and silently gazing at the vast expanse of water and the sky in front of him, while the breakers smash against the shore. The atmosphere of this painting is quintessentially romantic, but the painter intentionally compressed the space turning the canvas into an abstract painting in a modern sense. Although Monk by the Sea is not the direct intellectual inspiration for the compositional ethos of INNERLAND, it perfectly matches the spirit of the piece. In response to the extreme romantic lyricism of the poetry, the composer chose atonality as the

music language for his work. In this beautifully written composition in a traditional sense, the dissonance is not a surprising gesture reserved only for the moments of dramatic tension, nor is it used as an additional colorful effect; instead, it is always present, it is the thread woven into the texture of the music, the discrete fiber entwined in the cloth of life. The extended techniques are employed for dramatic purposes, and they challenge the performers' virtuosity every step of the way.

At the age of twenty-five, after his studies at the Paris Conservatory, Stéphane Furic - Leibovici moved to New York and, from there, toured the world carrying his double bass. He performed with Chris Speed, Chris Cheek, and Lee Konitz. In 1996 he released his critically acclaimed first album, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, on Soul Note label, with music composed in neo-modern-avant-garde-jazz-improvisational style, representative of the downtown New York music scene. Now, twenty-five years later, Stéphane travels light. He carries only a fountain pen, which he uses to write the perfectly crafted music scores.

Stéphane lives on a Mediterranean island where one small movement of head can dramatically change the view. On the left is the spellbinding blue sea, on the right the ragged rocky outcrops of mountain peaks. The arresting episodic spirit of his music, which is both elegant and powerful, mimics the nature that surrounds him.

The entire repertoire on this album was flawlessly recorded in one take at the Funkhaus Berlin and is placed here before you as a gift of beautifully composed, performed, and recorded piece of music.

Victoria Jordanova
Executive Producer
ArpaViva Recordings
January 7 2016

"Each there walks upon no alien soil." (Plotinus)

J’écris ces lignes depuis le rivage de la Corse, en regard de la Méditerranée. Les vagues d’équinoxe m’invitent à ressentir le contre-courant situationnel de la réalisation acérée, tranchante, que présente cet enregistrement.

Le language de cette musique est résolument atonal. Il ne se refuse aucun vernaculaire, aucune figure harmonique ou microtonale, aucune texture. Il s’articule dans une complexité rythmique recherchée, irrégulière et asymétrique. L’écriture, de surcroît, se prive volontairement d’alliés substantiels, ces derniers n’étant aujourd’hui que trop souvent convoqués pour servir d’habits ridiculement grands à une pauvre substance: l’instrumentation est spartiate, réduite à une voix et deux trombones. De ce pouvoir purement monodique de l’élocution, naissent cependant les formes animales, et la réalisation de toute la potentialité expressive, sensuelle, concrète, spirituelle, des sons et de leurs significations.

Le flot de ce qu’il est convenu de nommer “inspiration”, mais aussi, la série de textes choisis pour constituer l’oeuvre, les circonstances de l’existence et une démarche compositionnelle habituelle et poursuivie, dictèrent, dès le départ de l’entreprise, cette frugalité apparente. J’ai opéré une fusion

des attributs et des propriétés de ces éléments circonscrits, et, après examen de leur substance nucléaire rassemblée, concentrée, j’ai exploré cette dernière au niveau atomique, aux fins de chorégraphier ces nouvelles entités, contrapuntiques, timbrales, sonores.

Il fallait, de plus, que ce ballet évolua à la fois dans une organisation structurée autant variée et autant contrastée que possible, et en une grande forme unifiée d’une durée totale d’environ une heure.

Enfin, j’ai fabriqué les formants et les groupes élémentaires de l’oeuvre avec l’idée que le total résultant se déploie comme un livre de musique ouvert aux interprètes, une gyre, boucle sans fin pouvant être débutée en tout point du texte.

Sept poèmes européens datés du 12ème jusqu’au 20ème siècle naissant, en six langues différentes, offrent une richesse syntaxique, étendue au geste musical. Evidemment, le signifié et la sonorité des mots guident la fabrique des sons. Cependant, de surcroît, une antinomie originelle est créatrice d’un vaste champ magnétique aux excitations coercitives multiples, et structure la composition: aux extrémités de l’oeuvre, le signal fort du fracas sanglant du monde (monde inhumain, inintelligible) trempé dans la langue anglaise, lingua franca de notre temps ; de l’autre côté de l’opposition, aimant lévitant, résidant au centre de l’oeuvre, l’accord entre l’humain, les êtres vivants et la nature, l’union de deux êtres,

un cosmos sans grille de lecture surimposée par le monde. Dans cette clairière centrale se trouvent bien plus que des langues propres à l’endroit: il y a là un ton. Une intimité des origines.

* * * * *

Au lieu de saisir les chances qui s’offrent somptueusement à elle, notre époque semble entrainée dans une grande entreprise crétine de promptes classifications et de simplifications expéditives. L’appréciation du travail musical n’en réchappe guère. La demande d’identifications, de références, de noms - pour autant ce devront alors être ceux qui seront connus à coup sûr, est pressante. Du reste, une certaine “sociologie musicale” ne manifeste-telle pas son honteux essentialisme, ne vise-t-elle pas à dissimuler l’oeuvre, derrière un portrait de l’artiste en objet sociétal?

Alors que, depuis la grève, l’espace familier exploré, la cartographie des lieux de la Musique intégrée avec toutes ses constellations les plus brillantes et les plus achevées, composer implique, au contraire, ce moment critique où l’on franchit la zone des rouleaux. En mer libre, ouverte, l’oeuvre se pilote, en mouvement. Pour qui veut les voir (je ne serai pas ici celui qui montre du doigt les étoiles), elle présente naturellement les flancs de ses points d’appui, juste le court temps nécessaire à pointer, pour mieux aller droit de sa propre course dans un espace infini.

En art, seul compte le produit dont l’artiste est l’organe. Il sera d’autant plus réussi que l’artiste s’abandonne à son sujet et à ses exigences. Et c’est dans cette communion, avec je crois la distanciation requise, que je me contenterai maintenant d’interroger la conscience des relations qu’il me faut mettre à jour.

Quittons donc la table du compositeur, pour passer à celle du géographe et retrouver les réminiscences du voyageur. Avez-vous souvenir de ces navigations à proximité d’une terre qu’il vous semblait voir pour la première fois, tout en vous paraissant si familière ? Ce pourrait-être, cette île, dont, depuis le navire, nous voyons le côté que nous ignorions jusqu’alors, et que le périple nous révélait. Nous nous demandions, dans ce moment, quelle autre réalité inconnue, quelle vie, recèle l’endroit. Lumières, au crépuscule, de ce village hautperché sur une côte montagneuse. Invitation d’un soleil traversant une futaie, et qui aveugle notre cheminement de sa promesse amicale. Et quelle étape à la fois mystérieuse et accueillante semblait nous attendre derrière ce col alpestre?

Ce sentiment si singulier est le sujet sensible de INNERLAND, oeuvre-tentative de sa description dans le domaine musical. Toujours étrange et si familier, il dessine à traits pleins le lieu d’une vie autre, et qui nous semble pourtant plus réelle, plus vraie, et apaisée. Les éléments spirituels de cette existence y seraient amplifiés doucement là-bas, vibrant dans son air pur et mat.

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A distance désormais de INNERLAND et de l’arrière-pays plus évoqué

que convoqué, le tissage des multiples origines, les travaux d’approche comme les traits les plus affinés, de l’oeuvre qui vous est présentée ici, me semblent ce soir résider au lointain. Le sextant du chiffre de ses sons, le compas de sa composition, sont rangés dans leurs coffrets. Je ne pointe, pour vous, que ce qui est: la réalisation phénoménale accomplie par les interprètes de cet enregistrement. Et je souris affectueusement à la certitude, à la connaissance, qu’un simple regard, de vous qui entendrez, comme de moi dans le fracas des vagues, … un simple regard sur ce qui nous entoure, suffit pour retrouver l’arrière-pays. Là où la conscience a trouvé la clef, comment pourrait-elle la perdre?

Stéphane Furic-Leibovici
25 September 2015

Stéphane FURIC LEIBOVICI, born in 1965 in Paris, attended the Conservatoire National and, on a Fulbright scholarship, Berklee College in Boston, where he studied with William H. Curtis, then principal bassist of the Boston Symphony. At 25 he moved to New York, quickly emerging as a leading new-music double-bassist and performing worldwide in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Salle Pleyel, and various Japanese festivals. His early post-modern works were featured in a series of acclaimed recordings, among them “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (Soul Note, 1994).

In 1998, he broke with his recent musical past, clearing a space in which he could operate beyond specific genres. He undertook graduate studies in mathematics and computer science at NYU, where he later taught programming, and studied linguistics at the New School. After writing studies of Second Viennese School works, he went on to analyze and absorb recent advances in compositional concepts and praxis.

His innovative work in the 2000’s bridged late 20th- century through-composed music with music for virtuoso improvisers; the Jugendstil recordings (ESP), premiered by Konitz, Speed, Cheek, a.o., are representative.

In London (2008), he designed DELTA, a discrete probability distribution program using multidimensional scaling of proliferating tone series to

assign structures and build density blocks in chamber-music composition. From 2010 to 2012, he was in Berlin, as musical director of Ensemble Jean Barraqué. A prize from the Machinsky Foundation enabled him to spend 2013 as composer-in-residence at Funkhaus Berlin. His current output is resolutely atonal, asymmetrical, and rhythmically complex. The music is marked by a vehement tone that borders on opera, and yet this high-tension state coexists with a nocturnal nature poetry. His compositions include music for chamber orchestra and chamber ensembles, as well as solo instrumental and chamber vocal works. Furic Leibovici currently resides in France.

Virtuoso vocalist Almut Kühne born1983 in Dresden, began her musical journey with piano lessons at the age of seven, and later studied voice. Seeking to explore both jazz and contemporary classical music, she enrolled in the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler (Berlin), graduating in 2008. A world-class performer with exceptional technique, musicianship, and expressive prowess, Almut Kühne is equally capable of perfectly realizing a thorny written score and of plunging into a free-style improvisation with natural ease.

One of the most gifted singers on the European new- music scene, she interprets compositions by Michael Edward Edgerton, Helmut Lachenmann, Georg Graewe, Ondrey Adamek, Gebhard Ullmann,

and Stéphane Furic-Leibovici, and appears as soloist with the Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, Dresdner Kammerchor, and Ensemble AuditivVokal Dresden. Since 2010, she has performed in Luzerner Theater, Mousonturm (Frankfurt), Alte Oper Frankfurt, ICCM (York), Radialsystem (Berlin), The Stone (NY), a. o., and at various festivals (Konfrontationen, Hindgavl-Festival, World Festival of Sacred Music, a.o.). Driven to find her own voice and an authentic performance style, she is exploring extended vocal techniques and developing her own distinctive vocabulary of sounds: spoken, uttered, and vocalized.

Almut Kühne produced “Dowland Waters,” an experimental music-theater work for voice, piano, harpsichord, electronics, and video, based on music by Renaissance composer John Dowland. In 2009 she won the Berlin Senate's Studio Award and the MUSIC OMI residency in the U.S. Two 2014 releases, “Silver White Archives” (a duo with saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann) and “Ticho” (a trio with pianist Marc Schmolling and trumpeter Tom Arthurs), on the Swiss label Unit Records, showcase her as one of the leading vocalists on the avant-garde jazz scene. Almut Kühne resides in Berlin.

Samuel BLASER, trombonist/composer, born in 1981 in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland), lived in New York City before relocating to Berlin, where he currently resides. Blaser graduated from his hometown conservatory in 2002. Continuing private studies, he established

significant associations with the Vienna Art Orchestra and European Radio Big Band, a.o. These led to a Fulbright scholarship, which enabled him to study in the United States at SUNY Purchase.

His unfettered yet ever-collaborative approach has resulted in further associations, amongst them his ongoing work with percussionist Pierre Favre, pianist Malcolm Braff, clarinetist/composer François Houle, drummer/composer John Hollenbeck, and the late Paul Motian.

Considered a virtuoso on the jazz and improvised music scene, he is also a figure to reckon with in the contemporary classical-music world, performing on five continents and releasing ten albums of his collaborations and solo programs. He has premiered a dozen new-music works in Switzerland and Germany; his repertoire includes chamber pieces by Kurtág, Scelsi, Berio, Nono, and Pepi-Alos, a.o.

Not to be overlooked is Blaser’s work as a composer under the aegis of Oscar Strasnoy, his composition professor. Blaser also collaborated in performances of new chamber music in a trio with Strasnoy and Mathieu Ogier.

Christophe SCHWEIZER, trombonist/composer, born in 1968 in Berne (Switzerland), attended Berne Conservatory, Mannes College (NYC), and Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada, studying with Branimir

Slokar, Guy-Noel Conus, Conrad Herwig, David Taylor, and Malte Burba. In 1999, he joined the faculty at Banff; since 2013, he has been on the faculty of the Outreach Festival Academy in Austria.

In 2007, Schweizer formed a duo with experimental composer/cellist Brice Catherin, recording with him "Le fils de la prophétesse / Εἰρήνη, Χρόνος" and “ Die ersten zwei Kirchen.” He has also premiered Catherin’s ten-hour solo “Ma pièce avec comme un espoir à la fin” (Geneva, 2010). A virtuoso on a wide range of low brass instruments, he was the alphorn soloist in Daniel Schnyder’s Alphorn Concerto with the Gstaad Festival Orchestra (Singapore, 2006).

He performs with the Berlin-based groups “Work in Progress” and “Stargaze,” and has been collaborating with pop artists Owen Pallett and Loney Dear, as well as with Matthew Herbert, a.o.

Schweizer leads his own ensemble, “Young, Rich & Famous,” and acts as arranger and conductor with the legendary Billy Hart on a forthcoming album with the WDR Big Band Cologne. Schweizer performs on the alto, tenor, bass, and contrabass trombones as well as on sackbut, tuba, alphorn, bass trumpet, and euphonium. He currently resides in Hamburg.

Executive Producer: Victoria Jordanova
Recording: Berlin, Funkhaus Berlin Kammersaal (Saal 3), 7-8/2014
Tonmeister (Recording, Editing and Balance Engineering): Andreas Stoffels
Final Production (Mixing Engineering): Patrick Goraguer
World Premiere Recording of Complete Cycle
Publishers: SACEM, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Cover Painting: Monk by the Sea - 1808/1810 (Detail) by Caspar David Friedrich - Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin
Photography: Jean-Charles Pieri
Graphic Artist: Relja Penezic

With kind support of the Avi and Michal Machinsky Foundation. • • •

English Translation of Francisco Petrarca's Sonnet CLXXVI: A. S. Kline
English Translation of Raimbaut de Vacqueyras' Sunrise: Leonardo Malcovati

Special Thanks to: Susanne Graef, Avi Machinsky and Michal Machinsky, Michael Wilhelmi, Sophie Tassignon, Andreas Stoffels, Susanne Wolff, Patrick Goraguer, Corinne Pautard, Uli Kempendorff, Victoria Jordanova, Matthias Müller, Henri Eber, Sophie Peyronnat, Richard Comte, and last but not least: Steevy Ntsame Ndong.

On the web ( INNERLAND - A film by JC Pieri

Samuel Blaser & Christophe Schweizer