“Imperfection” has many different and always shifting senses. Employing the human voice opens a special realm for the exploration of musical imperfection: the understanding, non-understanding or misunderstanding of the semantic layer of the text. A sound emitted by the voice may be stripped of all meaning, emancipated in the direction of acousmatic listening. But vocal sounds also afford unique semantic possibilities. We frequently search vocal sounds for meaning. Does this vocal sound point to something, or is it “just sound”? As is frequently the case with imperfection, the liminal spaces are promising. For, if the impossibility to comprehend is to be perceived as an imperfection, an acousmatic reduction would emancipate the sound, and eliminate the tension. The sense of imperfection as “incompleteness” is the one closest to its etymological origin. Yet, for something to be perceived as “incomplete,” some sense of completeness must exist. Similarly, the aesthetic exploration of non-comprehension in vocal music must keep the possibility of comprehension alive, even if always beyond the horizon – an agent absence. What is, then, the aesthetic experience of “almost understanding”? Or going one step back, how does it feel to be utterly unable to understand, and yet still know – or believe – that there is something to be understood?

Of course, many different layers play this game. The fact that you have read this abstract so far has unavoidably changed everything. It is difficult to un-know. The title of pieces and movements, any possible program notes, act. A single word may trigger a net of associations, differently for different listeners. The word tetragrammaton might not mean anything to you, but it means a world to thousands. The audience has now been divided; multiplicity of listenings, activated. And if that word means nothing to you, now you know there is something that you do not know. Now, something is missing. Incompleteness is activated for some; for others, expectation – which, frustrated, may give rise to different imperfections.

This little might already have been too much. To say nothing at all is already impossible. Thus, a sufficient excess: the texts and the music of this piece come from the theological tradition of the unspeakability of the NAME. The impossibility of comprehension that permeates this music lies already in the content of the elusive text.

Finally, the question of understanding expands to the very nature of artistic research: the problem of talking about art. If art has a tacit embodied knowledge, is it necessary to speak about it? But if one simply presents the work and does not speak, does any critical reflection happen? Is the knowledge therein embodied – if any – advanced? Is it shared – or “shareable”?

Once more, liminal spaces are promising. In this performance, silent commentaries reflect on the ongoing song. Some of it is is unavoidably verbal. But perhaps other paths may be found in this INTERMEZZO. Perhaps at the end we will know something more – even though we may remain unable to talk about it.

Márcio Steuernagel Kaoko Amano

Three meditations on the unspeakable NAME of – a reflected performance for solo soprano and artistic researcher (with Kaoko Amano, soprano)

8 Oct. 2021 | 13:00

Márcio Steuernagel is a Brazilian conductor, composer and artistic researcher. Steuernagel is Master in Music by the Federal University of Paraná, main conductor of the Federal University of Paraná Philharmonic Orchestra; Conducting and Composing Professor at the School of Music and Fine Arts of the State University of Paraná, conductor of the Ensemble Móbile, and a founding member of the Ensemble entreCompositores, with whom he directed the Music Today Biennale (2011 – 2017). He currently lives in Vienna, Austria, as a Doctoral Candidate at the Doctoral School for Artistic Research of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, researching “imperfection in music as a fundamental compositional and performative dimension.”

Steuernagel studied conduction with Osvaldo Ferreira, and Alpaslan Ertüngealp; and composition with Maurício Dottori, Stefano Gervasoni and, currently, Germán Toro-Pérez. His compositions have been performed by groups such as the Platypus Ensemble (Vienna), Nova Camerata and Ensemble Móbile (Brazil), and orchestras such as Orquestra Sinfônica do Paraná, Camerata Antiqua de Curitiba, and Orquestra Filarmônica da Universidade Federal do Paraná. He has conducted orchestras such as Orquestra Sinfônica do Paraná (where he was assistant conductor from 2011 to 2013), Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais, Orquestra Sinfônica do Teatro Nacional Claudio Santoro, Szolnok Symphony Orchestra, Opera de Baugé, Çukurova Devlet Senfoni Orkestrasi, and Orquestra de Câmara da Cidade de Curitiba. Ahead of orchestras as well as Brazilian and European ensembles (Ensemble Platypus), Steuernagel specializes in new music, and has directed many premières, including the Brazilian première of György Ligeti’s Ramifications (2015), and the American première of Salvatore Sciarrino’s L’ideale lucente e le pagine rubate (2017).

Kaoko Amano wurde in Tokio geboren und studierte zunächst in Ihrem Heimatland an der Tokio Gakugei Universität Gesang und Musikpädagogik. Sie absolvierte anschließend ein Aufbaustudium am Konservatorium in Wien. Beim 8. Emmy Destinn Wettbewerb gewann sie den 2. Preis sowie einen Sonderpreis und stand auch bei verschiedenen Wettbewerben im Finale.

Sie widmet sich intensiv der zeitgenössische Musik und wirkte bei zahlreichen Uraufführungen von Werken internationaler Komponisten mit, wie z. B. im Rahmen des Festivals Wien Modern, der Salzburgerfestspiel,der Wiener Festwochen, der Musiktheatertage  oder der Klangspuren. Auftritte unter anderem im Wiener Musikverein, Konzerthaus, ORF Radiokulturhaus und im Schönberg Center. Zusammenarbeit mit der IGNM, der ÖGZM, Ensemble Phace, Ensemble xx. jahrhundert, Ensemble Reconsil, Schallfeld Ensemble u.a. In Rahmen des „World New Music Days 2013“ wirkte Amano zwei Opern „Wärme” (T.Friebel) und „Bill” (J.Sanchez-Chiong) mit. 2018 bei „Opern der Zukunft” sang sie in Grazer Oper mit grossem Erfolg die Hauptrolen in „Konjiki Yasha” (T.Yokokawa) und „Mirada Antigua” (J.Quislant). 2019 folgte “Dies Irae – der Tag des Zorns” (Kay Voges, P. Walfisch) im Wiener Burgtheater. Weitere zahlreiche Auftritte im In und Ausland. Mitglied von Ensemble Platypus und Black Page Orchestra