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Ictus / Christophe Urbain

The Unanswered Question

masterpieces of minimalism

In The Unanswered Question by the American composer Charles Ives, three instrument groups sketch out a cosmic landscape. While the strings express the eternal silence of infinite space, a trumpet searches for the meaning of life. A number of woodwind instruments try to formulate an answer, but end up simply mocking the question.   

Proverb and Tehillim are two compositions by the minimalist composer Steve Reich in which the written word plays a particularly essential role. While his lifelong fascination with the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein comes to the fore in Proverb, in Tehillim - a work in four movements - Reich examines his Jewish roots with the aid of a number of excerpts from the Psalms. 

The English composer Gavin Bryars based his composition The Sinking of the Titanic on the story of the musicians who were aboard the RMS Titanic, and continued playing while the ship sank. Gavin Bryars has the string section endlessly repeat the hymn the musicians were said to have played. This melody is increasingly submerged over time beneath Morse code signals, disorientating sound effects and even interviews with survivors. The effect is that of the band members slowly sinking into the depths of the ocean.  

Flagey, Klarafestival, Brussels Philharmonic, Ictus

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