5th Symphony “Fetish”
A chamber symphony for Sinfonietta (2009)
Fetish, which was commissioned by Raf De Keninck, is a chamber symphony, Frank Nuyts’s fifth symphony. The subtitle “Fetish” refers to Nuyts’s personal interpretation of the genre: “Chamber symphony, symphony, sinfonietta… What, essentially, is the difference?”According to Nuyts’s, it has in any event to do with a format, but not necessarily intrinsic limitation. Greatness, but in a less is more sense if you like. But why would someone voluntarily opt for less? It is said that the master is revealed in restraint. But in Nuyts’s experience “less” regularly also effectively means “less”. Thats is why he decided to draw inspiration from a situation in which restraint became a positive experience.
He was inspired by the world of fetish, in which people like to be spiritually as well as physically bound… A gothic setting with people dressed in black suits. Long leather coats with tails swaying in the wind.This visual gave the composer his first idea.A musical paradox: very loud heavy metal drums on the one hand and on the other an ensemble which by definition does not produce massive sonority. An inspiring problem, which in a sense – in his own words – was his own way of mentally putting on a latex suit.
For each part of his chamber symphony the composer imposed a different restraint on himself. The composition starts with a motto: an “almost inert, almost pentatonic tinkle”, says Nuyts. The first part consists entirely of unison, rudimentary harmony and a furious tempo with percussion which almost resembles a sledgehammer at times. In the second part the harmony is limited to the 24 major and minor thirds, combined with a free melody. Part three is a true scherzo, with a dynamic which never drops below “semi-loud”, constrained by a tight rhythm. Part four, with its soprano solo to a poem by Boudewijn Buckinx, was stripped of any form of fixed meter of tempo. The fifth and last part has an ultra-rigid structure. A ritornello consisting of nothing else than a repeated triad systematically interrupts a series of dyads. This brings the piece to its final, when the percussionist once again is given the opportunity tp pull out all the stops.
The entire piece sounds exuberant. A true challenge for the musicians and the composer. Or the result of the composer’s seven-league steps in tight shoes…
Tineke De Meyer.
Innocence in admiration.
A concerto for piano and ensemble by Frank Nuyts (2008)
In 2008 the Ghent conservatory commissioned a piano concerto from Frank Nuyts. Because none of the recent models appealed to him, it seemed as if he would have to reinvent every aspect of this work, from its form to the notes.
The work would be created in the frame of a program with an American theme. That is why Nuyts turned to his “old friend”, John Cage for advice:
“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”
The “16 and beyond” idea provided Nuyts with a formal concept: 16 concertinos, conducted by a gradually rising tone.
As far as the content was concerned, Nuyts was inspired by comics. The soloist as a superhero in tights with a superhuman gift. The composer then linked the idea of the superhero with Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch – in line with George Bernards Shaw’s ‘Man and Superman’. As a result, each concertino had a Nietzschean aphorism as a motto.
Being the real post-Modernist that he is, Nuyts derived the basic notes from the genre. The nineteenth-century piano concertos with their iconic keyboard acrobatics are teeming with broken triads. This typical technique has become a cornerstone of Innocence in admiration, a good example of Nuyts’s resourcefulness, bringing musical clichés of the past back to life. The texture, which is rather syncopated, bears testimony to the influence of Manuel De Falla’s piano of harpsicord concerto. The at times turbulent solo on the one hand keeps the listener’s attention and on the other refers to the essential percussive nature of the piano. Only at the end do the triads seem to reveal their true historicizing nature.
As far as instrumentation is concerned, Nuyts deliberately opted to use the (seven simplified) instrumentation of a typical Mozartian piano concerto: oboe, horn, bassoon and strings. By adding percussion, the soloist has a sparring partner here and there, making him anything but a showy autocrat.
Frank Nuyts was born in Oostende in 1957. He studied percussion at the Ghent Conservatory and composition with Lucien Goethals at the instituut voor Pyschoacoustica en Electronische Muziek (IPEM)
Around 1985 he is stylistically veering to post-modernism: elements of the so-called “commercial music” are from then on imbedded in compositions which remain multi-layered although rhythmically less complex. (eg. ‘Rastapasta’)
In 1983, together with Iris De Blaere, he founded the 7-member cross-over band Hardscore, recording four CD’s and undertaking international tours. (eg. ‘Methane’, ‘`Surf, wind and desire’, ‘Monkey Trial’) Since that time he also has produced an extensive and varied oeuvre: several orchestral works (3 concerti (piano, marimba and cello), 5 symphonies, the chamber operas ‘Bekket’ for Leporello; ‘Middle East’ for LOD and ‘Tongval’ & ‘Paternal’ for vzw Hardscore). He also has composed 18 piano sonatas (13-!8 commissioned by Music centre De Bijloke) and many vocal compositions mainly for the Australian Song Company.
Frank Nuyts teaches composition at the Ghent School of Arts. Together with Iris De Blaere he founds the new festival ‘En Avant Mars’ for the Music centre De Bijloke.