For the 13th Disquiet Junto project, the Los Angeles classical chamber-music ensemble wild Up provided us individual stems from a live multi-track recording of the first movement of the Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a, by Dimitri Shostakovich. We were invited to make something new from this source material, but were asked to use only the source material — as few or as many of the source tracks as we desired.
Researching the original piece led me here:
Shostakovich publically dedicated the Symphony to “victims of fascism.” But in a letter to a friend, the Russian composer said he had wanted to dedicate the quartet, “To the memory of the composer of this quartet.” Continuing, he wrote:
“The basic theme of the quartet is the four notes D natural, E flat, C natural, B natural — that is, my initials, D. SCH. The quartet also uses themes from some of my own compositions and the Revolutionary song ‘Zamuchen tyazholoy neveolyey’ [‘Tormented by grievous bondage’]. The themes from my own works are as follows: from the First Symphony, the Eighth Symphony, the [Second Piano] Trio, the Cello Concerto, and Lady Macbeth. There are hints of Wagner (the Funeral March from Gotterdammerung) and Tchaikovsky (the second subject of the first movement of the Sixth Symphony). Oh yes, I forgot to mention that there is something else of mine as well, from the Tenth Symphony. Quite a nice little hodge-podge, really.”
Shostakovich was depressed, some say suicidal, when he wrote the original piece in 3 days in 1960. So I searched for major keys and emotional resolutions in the recording and used an ambient hall noise (the moving of someone’s chair? the shuffling of an instrument?) as a rhythm track. I felt the need to return some happiness to the affair. History, unfortunately, too often proves correct the fears of men like Shostakovich, who spent most of his artistic life in a cut-off collectivist dystopia. So as we communed with his ghost here, I wanted only to let Dimitri know none of his notes were in vain, and that his music is now free in a way he never was. I learned way more than I bargained for with this week’s assignment, not the least of which is why Shostakovich’s quartet must be passed down through time, from hand to hand and ear to ear.
“Here comes the future,” as Karl Wallinger says.
More on wild Up at:
Listen to the original recording at:
More details on the Disquiet Junto at:
I shot the photo attached to this track on a school trip to Russia (i.e., the USSR) in 1985. Seemed to fit.