By Austin Franklin, Special to the Sybaritic Singer
New York-based Lithuanian-born composer Zibuokle Martinaityte (b. 1973) released the premiere recording of her major new work “In Search of Lost Beauty…” (2016) through Starkland on March 1, 2019. This multi-movement, 70-minute piece is performed by the prize winning Lithuanian piano trio FortVio. Composed for piano, violin, cello, electronic soundtrack, and synchronized video projection, “In Search of Lost Beauty…” is a powerfully immersive exploration of beauty that at its core, calls into question the very essence of the word. Martinaityte’s passionately energetic musical language on this recording is one that will undoubtedly pull you straight into the beauty of the world that she has created for you.
It does not seem appropriate to compare this work with any of the dominant musical trends of the past 50 to 100 years, or to describe it through the integration of more than one of these trends. Even observations about the compositional tools or specific musical elements (more on this later) found throughout this recording might be mischaracterizing, because they cannot first accurately describe with any great precision the essential element on which the work is predicated… Time. According to Martinaityte, “In Search of Lost Beauty…” is a sequence of audiovisual novellas on the subject of beauty – an attempt to recreate the experience in which time is slowed down in order to transport us into an alternate dimension where the commonly apprehended reality is inverted into the otherworldly mystique of reflections and shadows…”
It seems most appropriate to instead focus on Martinaityte’s innate sense of musical phrasing and pacing, and how that is able to affect time in order to transport us into this alternate dimension. “In Search of lost Beauty…” is built from a single sound that is continuously stretched and pulled apart to reveal textures and sounds previously unnoticed, but that were always present. This fractal-like quality gives its listeners the feeling of constantly being drawn in, and turns each separate listen into a chance for brand new discoveries. Her concentration on sound and its transformation at every single moment can be thoughtfully represented with a quote by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, in which he describes his “need to concentrate on each sound, so that every blade of grass would be as important as a flower”. It is through this ‘sense’ that Martinaityte is able to take a single sound and create with it a sonic landscape that is at all times ever changing, and ever fixed.
One of the most interesting things about this work are the moments of extreme tension, which are created in one of two rather opposing ways. The first way is through the gradually swelling of a repetitive idea until its speed, density, and volume creates a kind of cloud-like mass that brings with it a haunting, pounding energy. The second way is through a solo from one of the trio instruments, most notably the violin (Ingrida Rupaite-Petrikiene) from Serenity Diptychs (track 06). The majority of this movement is dominated by the violin solo, but reaches its climax midway through the movement by playing in its extreme high register. This movement adds a uniquely expressive and intimate sound that sets it apart from the others. The piano (Indre Baikstyte) and cello (Povilas Jacunskas) are treated similarly in that they have movements or smaller moments within movements in which they are given a more dominant role than the other two members of FortVio.
The overall balance between the piano, violin, and cello can be tricky to decipher at times (but not always necessary to) because of the overall fluid nature of the work. This momentary lack of clarity is actually quite an effective musical tool as well as an achievement when considering that there is also an accompanying electronic track for the members of FortVio to balance with. The electronics add an additional layer of depth, a sort of persistent force that is most always present throughout the recording. There are some movements in which the electronics are meant to engage with the trio, such as Blue (track 02) in which vocal sounds come in and out of focus in between gestures from the trio, and others such as Interlude (fleeting) (track 08) in which the electronics serve to create a bedrock of sound underneath the trio, who play brief separated gestures that transition into Track 09. In other moments the electronic track simply sounds like an extension of FortVio’s sound, either by adding a reverb-like effect or by matching particular pitches or textures with the piano, violin, and cello, transforming the overall sound into a hybrid of the electronic and acoustic.
The Synchronized video projection is meant to further draw you into this alternate dimension that Martinaityte envisions. This dimension is one that initially seems abstract, only until you begin to notice symmetries and other patterns. The projection develops into a sort of underwater dream-state filled with beautiful architecture and landscapes in which you are invited to explore, and actively engage with. Martinaityte says that “they are hints of our memories continuously coming back in multiple metamorphoses, attempting to suggest a storyless narrative.” This ambiguous familiarity with the images holds your attention, and keeps you curiously waiting for more.
“In Search of Lost Beauty…” creates a world that is rich with surprising textures, harmonies, and timbres. Its gradual progression of material and rate at which timbres develop encapsulate you for the entire duration of the recording. Martinaityte’s sound world is one that stands on its own as a work of art, apart from labels or genres, and one in which the journey is definitely more important than the final destination.
Austin Franklin is an emerging composer from Baton Rouge, LA where he is pursuing a master’s degree in music composition at LSU under Dinos Constantinides. His primary area of interest pertains to the development of hierarchical pitch structures and complex patterns in music. Austin’s works have been performed throughout United States and Greece. He has won several awards and commissions, such as the Sound/Sight Art Collaboration and the First Annual LSU Composers Competition, and has several pieces published through C-Alan Publications.