Asymptotic Freedom I

© Elena Rykova
© Elena Rykova
© Christopher Moy

© Christopher Moy

I’ve been always fascinated with the sound universe of an electric guitar. My personal journey with this instrument starts in 2016, when Yaron Deutsch asked me to write a short study for his guitar workshop in Darmstadt. In order to play the instrument and feel free in playing, while not being a guitarist myself, I had to modify the guitar with several rubber bands, which allowed me to play it intuitively. I loved the sound of strings prepared this way. I also felt that through this preparation, the instrument became my own, and so the process of discovery began.

After writing the study “know-how to skyrocket your Stratocaster and zigzag to Callisto” Yaron and I started dreaming of a bigger scale project, since there was so much to explore in this sound world. And by 2020 the idea transformed into a large project with six guitarists, who together became a sextet named after a city in Russia, where I was born – Ufa.

The project consists of the two pieces: a 12-minute piece for Witten festival and a longer, over 45-minute spatial piece for Darmstadt festival, which takes off the first one.

In February, right before Covid-19 crisis hit the world, the guitarists and I met in the studio La Muse en Circuit in Paris to get to know each other and to work together during a short residence there. It was very important for me to share my initial ideas with the band, try them out and explore them further as a group and in one-on-one sessions but it was also important for me to learn something about each performer during our explorations, for once I am back home, I could have the memories, the feel of their individual personalities.

During the next two months of a lockdown, musicians and I were in close contact with each other: I would send them bits of their parts, they would record them and send me back the recordings together with some comments. It was a very intense and exciting time. The initial idea for the piece changed pretty quickly, as the concert was soon cancelled and the premiere was going to be held online at WDR3. Since the musicians were not able to meet and play together, I decided to make only parts (no score) and think of each part as a separate independent piece coexisting with the other parts-pieces. As bit by bit I was receiving the recordings from musicians, I was listening to them and composing the whole piece bringing those fragments together, as I would do with an electronic piece. Once I was satisfied with the shape of a whole, I asked the musicians to record their parts again in one complete take with precise timing for final synchronization.

© Elena Rykova

© Elena Rykova

 This piece was important for each of us, especially in the first months of the pandemic. It gave us a sense of purpose, something to look forward to. While composing, I played my guitar a lot, I would play and listen into the sound again and again, forgetting the outside world, escaping from it, and yet at the end going back to reality. That is why I called the piece Asymptotic Freedom – the sense of freedom I needed to have in order to breathe and continue making music during those difficult days; the one you cannot own or grasp fully unless you are in it – inside the piece, which inevitably ends. So in order to keep this feeling – this illusion of freedom – I had to continue listening and searching for the sound over and over again, trying to become closer to it each time.

Composing that piece was more than a work or a practice, it was a mental necessity. I fell in love with each single sound I’ve found through my fingers, ears and imagination. And more importantly, this love for sound I immediately shared with my dear collaborators. I wasn’t alone but in a constant exchange of thoughts with the musicians.

While the outside world kept falling apart, this piece became a safe metaphysical place, where we all were able to meet and in some way exist together, play for each other. It is the most beautiful collaboration I’ve had so far. And luckily, it is only the beginning.

Elena Rykova
September 26, 2020

© Marina Agliullina
© Marina Agliullina

Elena Rykova
Composer, visual and performance artist. Currently based in Boston.
Born in 1991, in Ufa, Russia, I studied piano, composition and conducting at music college. After graduation in 2010, I decided to continue as a composer in Moscow State Conservatory with prof. Yuri Kasparov for the next five years. In 2015 I started my master program in composition at Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln with prof. Johannes Schöllhorn. And since Fall 2016 I am a PhD candidate at Harvard University; after studying composition with prof. Chaya Czernowin and prof. Hans Tutschku, I am now teaching composition in Harvard College.
https://www.elenarykova.rocks/

CALENDAR:

  • 25th – 28th February 2020 La Muse and Circuit (Alfortville, FR) – Residency
  • 26th April 2020 WDR Radiofestival, Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik (Witten, DE) – Avant-premiere
  • 10th August 2021 Darmstadt Ferienkurse (Darmstadt, DE) – Premiere