Sonorous impressions amid numbers and notes

Alexandre Rodichevski.

© Photo Morfoedro

Way back in 1958 the Brussels Expo hosted a much talked about pavilion ‑ the Philips Pavilion designed by Le Corbusier and backed by the musical intervention of Edgard Varèse. Also part of the team was Le Corbusier’s assistant, a young Greek architect who somehow survived the furor of the civil war. His name was Iannis Xenakis, and he assiduously attended Olivier Messiaen’s lessons on musical analysis, at the Conservatory of Paris a few years later. He did not, however, betray his mathematical background, but transformed it into a new, original compositional method. The example of Xenakis is not, in reality, an isolated case, drawn out by chance from a magician’s hat, but represents a coherent development of the tonal system’s crisis and its consequences: an openly experimental approach to the compositional method and the “instrumental” use of science, revived as a source of creative inspiration. Nothing new on the western front, one could object: the liaison between music and mathematics traces back to the Pythagoreans, and even in the 18th century Rameau wrote, “Music is a science that has to have set rules. These must be extracted from an evident principle which cannot be known without the help of mathematics. I must admit that despite all the experiences I acquired through a long musical practice, I managed to arrange my regulations only with the help of mathematics, and only then did the light dissipate the darkness.” However, there is something different in the 20th century, and on further thought, the combination in fact does not only regard music and mathematics, but music and the sciences in general and do not refer any longer to innate, structural characteristics of music intended as a system of sounds, but rather to science conceived as a reserve of finite but immense possibilities for artistic experimentation.

Alexandre Rodichevski’s compositions can be classified within this third type of creative context: the distinguishing sign of this is the fact that, very much like the early 20th-century composers, Rodichevski is not a musician but a scientist who creates music, or in other words, a scientist-composer. The key to the interpretation of his music ‑ however – is not the scientific method (in the broad sense, obviously) but the creative freedom that lies at the roots of his compositions: the very same one that weaves a dual weft in the 24 pieces of the CD Minutes references to pop music and the classical repertory, or that which, in Two Constellations – of the CD Cosmologies – paves the way to a method based on the translation of mathematical formulas into sound expressions. The bond of continuity with the 20th-century musical context is there (certainly so!) but it flows in the guise of a subtle partitioning barrier: the distinguishing factor is translated into freedom and above all in detachment from the need to be coherent, or stay anchored to a method or defined style. This explains not only the existing extreme stylistic variety – for example – between CDs like Minutes and The Elements of Quietness, but also between the pieces in the single CDs.

Alexandre Rodichevski is a product of his times, a representative of democracy of taste that does not conceive barriers between the classical style and pop music, a cosmopolite coming from Russia but who does not translate anything of his own origins in his music, a man born in a world highly permeated with the centrality of science, and who at the same time, in the choice of his themes, seemingly – as a product of deeply sophisticated society and distant from his origins – wishes to return to the ancestral simplicity of his roots - time, cosmology, the elements, the same primordial abstractness of mathematics which subtends all things. Not only this, of course: Alexandre Rodichevski’s universes of sounds are also populated by glimpses of urban life, teeming with flashes of the city… however – at least in these phases – the dominant element seems to be the return to Essence, whether conceived in naturalistic (or cosmogonic) terms, or whether it is thought of in mathematical terms. In a certain sense the music of Alexandre Rodichevski – as the true product of his times – closes the circle and Science – this modern chimera that can do all and nothing at the same time – implores with the brazen boldness of paradoxes, for a miracle… or even better “the” miracle: to lead Artificial Man (son of science and modernity) towards the land he strayed away from.

Translation by Yolanda Rillorta