The complete version of electro-acoustic composer Ákos Rózmann's epic masterpiece 12 Stations presented for the first time in its entirety as a deluxe 7CD set.
With an unwavering commitment to the creation of music Rózmann would often lock himself up in his windowless studio working into the night in order to achieve the results he desired. He did not seek the approval of his peers nor the satisfaction of his audience with the only concern being the perfect articulation of his vision. This combination of vision, passion and stubbornness resulted in one of the most singular catalogues within the field of musique concrete. Commissioned by the Hungarian composer Miklós Maros who requested a five-minute work for piano and voice. Rózmann accepted the offer with the intention of writing a tape piece made from recordings of Miklós' wife, the soprano singer Ilona Maros' and his own experiments with prepared piano. The elements recorded here became the source material for Twelve Stations, a work which flew far from the initial five minute brief to land 20 years later as a spirit stretching journey of more than 6 1/2 hours. The compositional process is unique in Rózmann's output due to the 18 year gap between the initial phase and completion of the final work. The first phase made between 1978-1980 consists of an exploration of traditional musique concrète techniques such as speeding up, slowing down, cutting and splicing tape. The last four stations made between 1998-2001 embrace digital technology where small sections of the original recordings from 1978 were fed through an effects processor and improvised on a sampler keyboard. Despite this gap and the different techniques deployed at each period of creation the monumental result sits as a complete and staggering whole.
Within the set limitations of the source material Rózmann's skill unfolds in an uncanny ability to coax a vast world of flexible sound from the original piano and voice recordings. The result is a maelstrom of dynamic audio and one of the most daring, challenging and rewarding works of musique concrète from the 20th Century. 'Property – Room' parts I and II initiate proceedings with a vast landscape of Sturm und Drang. The original material of piano and voice are dissected and reconstructed as a means of evoking an aggressive otherworldly atmosphere. 'The Contents and Life of the Black Pit' shifts further outside with an expansive palate of heavily corrupted voice and frenzied electronics dancing in a most unsettling fashion. 'The Abandonment of Hell' leads the listener into a sophisticated and shocking melange of audio disorientation, one with a distinct 'musical' quality. One senses a master craftsman quietly whittling away at the individual elements in order to harness the previously unobtainable world within. Part V 'The Awakening' implants female forms in the mix as the growling, belching, disturbing voices of the early sequences are replaced with more heavenly voices ascending the malformed matter below. Rózmann was typically ambiguous about the meaning behind his work despite suggesting earlier that the first part of 'Twelve Stations' was an interpretation of the 'Tibetan Wheel of Life'. Alongside his interest in Tibetan Buddhism he maintained his following of the catholic church and as a consequence one may also read this sequence, with its uplifting motifs as an ascent from hell into heaven. Rózmann concludes proceedings with 'The Celebrators', which presents itself not as an ending but rather a continuation of sorts. A short musical refrain conjures a prism where refractions of voice and sound appear like a hall of mirrors, spiralling onwards and outwards, without end.
Epic in scale, timbre, technique, mood and movement, Twelve Stations is a unique masterpiece of 20th Century musique concrète and presents itself as an intensely personal and bold realm of sound, an offering as such, a radical mass open to all.
Man meets different difficulties and sufferings through his wandering. These are forces between which a continuous struggle is going on. He cannot control and preside over these forces. He is being tossed up and down, powerless, like snowflakes in the storm: chaotic thoughts and feelings, gladness and suffering, which flow without intermission like a river that has no beginning nor end. All these are the fruits of our own deeds. However, in this life you have the chance to make easier those life wanderings that are to come. - Rózmann (from the programme notes for the 1984 premiere of the first seven stations).
– Mark Harwood
7 CDs with a 20 page booklet containing an extensive essay on the composition by the scholar Gergely Loch, photos from the process and of scores and the composer.
Repress of the box set first published in 2014.
Ákos Rózmann (1939-2005) was an Hungarian-Swedish composer of experimental electronic and electroacoustic music. Born in Budapest, Hungary, he studied composition at the Bartók Conservatory and the Liszt Academy. In 1971 he received a scholarship to come to Stockholm and completed his compositional studies with Ingvar Lidholm at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and then settled down in Sweden. He was the organist at the Catholic Cathedral in Stockholm for a long time. His early encounter with electroacoustic music gave a new direction to his composing. Except for a few early pieces, Rózmann composed solely electroacoustic music—often preferring a monumental form, usually with the organ and the human voice as the most crucial sound sources in a complex, penetrating musical language loaded with symbols. As a composer, he worked involuntary seclusion, uncompromisingly and with great originality. Rózmann's music is about the fundamental questions of existence, often on an ethical or religious (Catholic or Buddhist) basis, for example, in the enormous suites Images of the Dream and Death and Twelve Stations.
"The lingering feeling after hearing the works of Ákos Rózmann is the intangibility of naming what that lingering feeling is. Anyone who hears his music is moved, in as many ways possible, but why they have been moved and where to, is as difﬁcult to put a ﬁnger on as to catch a small ﬂeck in a bowl of water, always in sight, but forever slipping from our grasp."—Jim O'Rourke