There has always been a pull toward this score. It evokes an internal leaning toward the work that it would take to perform it. The constant knowledge that there are notes, rhythms, secrets that need to be illuminated. There is a deep understanding of what-it-could-become if we simply give ourselves to the practice. When desire for a project is strong enough, hidden superpowers seem to rise to the top. Powers to find partners that are just as willing (read: crazy) to devote themselves to the work spring from nowhere. The ability to magically move schedules around emerges to allow for Skype rehearsals across states, gigs that pay for air travel, and deadlines that finish at the perfect moment. We are coursing along toward the goal; cruising finally into a scheduled performance of György Kurtág’s “Kafka Fragments” this Saturday, January 11th at 8pm. Violinist Martha Morrison Muehleisen and I would often comment in those early practice sessions, “why did we choose this?! It’s so challenging!” But, the details began to make sense. From starting the piece, finding collaborators, booking performances, and spreading the word it has been this formidable desire that has pushed us forward. Jay McInerney writes, “Sometimes I think the difference between what we want and what we’re afraid of is about the width of an eyelash.”
I have been drawn to the “Kafka Fragments” from the first time I heard about the piece from Tony Arnold. There is something so wonderfully raw about short, random clips from any author, especially Kafka. Kafka has such an interesting worldview, and it is amazing how these short thoughts can come together to create such a monumental piece. I also loved the challenge of finding a way to make everything cohesive for an audience, and when Megan suggested adding animation, I was hooked. The interplay of visual and aural art is fascinating, and “Kafka Fragments” is the perfect piece to explore the relationship between the two. – Martha Morrison Muehleisen
I remember being nervous when I asked Karen to consider our collaboration. I think I said something akin to, “I know that other people do this – but do you think it is something that we could do?” As we discussed our ideas, it became clearer that yes, we are indeed the kind of people who could do this type of performance.
I’d seen “Kafka Fragments” a few years ago and when Megan asked if I’d be interested in making videos for the piece I was surprised and excited. I find the music so intense and emotional. I rarely collaborate with anyone and my process is such that I find the subject in the making. To start out with such a powerful given was unusual but in listening to the music what came to me as a structure was very simple – constant movement within the starts and stops but of the internal kind. Animation was perfect for this as well as changing light. The structure of the composition perfectly suits consciousness or the making of consciousness. All the stops and starts. I think we perceive a flow but with memory, emotion and our physical senses, there is always a stop and start to create an image or idea.
We started with assigning Kafka’s voice to the person Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest. The text and music are so detailed and specific that I kept this parallel subject as open and abstract as possible, using it to set some boundaries: a Japanese woman who accomplished a terrific goal with great obstacles. This could apply to anyone which is the beauty of the composition. These ideas were discovered in the making of the videos and are some of the reasons I love Kurtág’s “Kafka Fragments.” – Karen Yasinsky
We certainly fell head over heels for Kurtág’s “Kafka Fragments” and we hope you will too in this truly one-of-a-kind performance.
January 11, 2014 at 8:00 pm
“Take a deeply spiritual journey through the life and writings of Franz Kafka, as the Atlas welcomes mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and violinist Martha Morrison Muehleisen, to the stage performing contemporary composer Gyorgy Kurtag’s “Kafka Fragments.” Inspired by the life of Kafka and his many works, the Jewish-Hungarian composer of Europena music ties composer and writer together with “alliterative grace” taking listeners through “a century of modernism and a gasping for personal expression through violently impersonal time” in one of his longest and most celebrated works. This performance will feature live animations during the performance by Rome Prize fellow Karen Yasinsky.
As always, I would love to read your comments. Please feel free to leave them below or chat with us on Twitter – @mezzoihnen and we can use the hashtag #KafkaFrag. Thanks!