Thuistezien 213 — 23.03.2021

Leo Svirsky
Musical Material

Leo Svirsky (1988, USA) is a Russian-American composer pianist and accordionist based in the Hague, Netherlands. His music explores the instability of listening and the disorientation of memory and affect while remaining grounded in history and symbol, song and story. His varied musical interests have led to performance situations as diverse as Richmond VA's Cat Mansion, the Kremlin Armoury, and the Cathedral of Nantes. To add to that list, on November 27, 2016, Leo Svirsky was invited to take part in the third edition of Musical Material, held in the historic ‘Huis Huguetan' of the Hague.

In this virtuosic solo performance, Svirsky presents the audience with a fresh perspective on the accordion and its particular unique musicality. In the late 18th century, French missionary Joseph-Marie Amiot introduced the Asian ‘Sheng’, a free reed instrument to Europe, inspiring the development of European instruments like the harmonica and accordion. In the case of accordion, the buttons or keys cause ‘pallets’ to open which allow air to flow across the reeds when compressing or expanding the bellows (the middle part). The technical properties of the accordion, alongside its extremely wide tonal range, create an instrument capable of incredible musical potential. That said, it is Svirsky whose composition and musicianship not only showcases the accordion's potential, the music is dependent on it.

The music is an ambient meditation into the musicality of acoustic additive synthesis, patiently exploring the different registers of the accordion. Additive synthesis is an electro-acoustic practice where the layering of continuous tones creates complex tonal relationships unfolding over time. The accordion is one of a few conventional acoustic instruments where this technique is possible, and it is this principle that Svirsky uses to create the rhythmic beating element within the longer sounds. And while this is again a very beautiful and interesting practice, it is Svirsky’s oneness with his instrument and composition that immerse the listener into a beautifully haunting, gradually evolving soundscape. It gives me a similar feeling as contemplating the duality that is being stationary in my room, at the same time flying through the universe at unfathomable speeds in our communal spaceship called Earth. Truly a remarkable display of musical understanding and competence, regarding composition as much as performance, ultimately merging Svirsky and his accordion into one singularity.

Musical Material is a collaboration between West Den Haag and Rewire, hosting a series of inspiring encounters during which specialists in the fields of music, art and reflection explore their practice in an intimate setting.

Text: Hendrik Hohlfeld