A safe haven of tried-and-true compositional devices and techniques? This does not offer him real comfort. Quite the opposite! The real challenge for Matej Bonin is unpredictable situations which involve risk, even the possibility that things will fall apart, but which do not exclude the likelihood that something else could emerge, something that no one could imagine in their wildest dreams. If you offer your fellow actor a range of options for how to react in a certain situation, then you never know which of the options he/she will choose. And if one makes connections in this way – where each choice impacts the following decision – a chain reaction occurs which unwinds itself in such a way that is directly dependent upon the individual’s initial choice, as well as, of course, upon the choices made by the other participants. Each reaction in the chain of events can, depending on the previous choice, make sense (or not) from both a subjective and an “objective” point of view. Of course, even the composer allows himself a choice: either he limits the range of possibilities so much that the course of events will be more predictable or, more accurately, in such a way that it will move in the direction the composer wishes or recognizes as meaningful. This means, of course, that among the choices which are offered, regardless of how the composer limits them or not, it is the indisputable responsibility of each individual to make decisions that affect the course of events, while at the same time engendering a measure of (co-) creative freedom enabling everyone to indentify more authentically with everything else while giving the individual a reliable feeling of sincere belonging to the whole.
Karl Hmeljak’s text consists of “intriguing” parables and semantic transformations via onomatopoetic associations. Here as well there is a process of choosing among various possibilities, where each subsequent choice is influenced by the one before it, the cosmos of association open on all sides. Of course, in contrast to the fluidity of actions and reactions between musicians, in the text all formal processes are “frozen” since the text is fixed. However, we can easily conclude that both primary actors – the composer, and the poet – are, in the event itself, in an extremely direct synergistic relationship such that their paths are almost identical. Additionally, the text is incredibly flexible since it easily withstands deconstruction, reconstruction, and decomposition into its prime elements – syllables, letters or even sound itself. It is with the latter (the sound “mmm…") that the singer, or rather the voice artist (Stimmkünstlerin), Irena Z. Tomažin – past textual suggestions and in a moment of screaming silence – announces herself after “waking up” from the previous “excommunication” by skillfully repeating the first letter (“b”) of the first word (Slov. “Brez”/Eng. “Without”). With this she suddenly introduces a new, distinctly hierarchical attitude towards her fellow actors, who effectively “oppose” her through imitation, sooner or later forcing her to “censor” their activities (the vocalist blocks and muffles the sound with her palms just after each instrument sounds). Of course this action soon grows, as a reaction, into a general muting of sound among the ensemble members themselves, from which Irena escapes into the respectful shelter of the text itself.
Towards the end of the piece, “the possible” is also reflected in the shouts of "Aj" (Eng. “Ay”), which at first the vocalist repeats uncertainly, curiously, and in anticipation, then one by one all the protagonists start to follow her by increasingly yelling into the instruments that resonate (the open hi-hat, cymbals, membranophones). Slowly it all turns into unusual nonsense as they attempt to force resonance with penetrating screams upon – for example – wood(!)
As an unencumbered listener and viewer of the voyeuristically recorded online broadcast of Gymnastics of (non)sense by Matej Bonin and Karlo Hmeljak (camera work by Tomaž Grom), I did not neglect my own and certainly free choice of interpretation of the meaning or the message of the event. More and more the afore-mentioned shouts of “Aj” (Eng. “Ay”) reminded me of the English pronoun “I” and thus reminded me that a symbiotic existence within a constructive synergy can be delayed only for a while. Sooner or later it always consolidates into an individual “I” that is exclusive and short-sighted.
Gymnastics of (non)sense is a unique musical-performance project that questions relationships, the possibilities (or abilities) of human communication on different levels, and the individual creative and co-creative processes within a group, along with their limitations and their potential. It offers a platform for exploring “analog algorithms” which determine the rules and principles guiding the path of a sound event through actions and reactions. It is thrilling what incredible sound coincidences can occur “by themselves” in this way.
Vienna, 3 March 2021