Interview: Egidija Medekšaitė

PHOTO BY MARTYNAS ALEKSA

Egidija Medekšaitė creates her music by mapping textile patterns onto compositional parameters, using characteristics such as the weft, the warp and the yarn itself to determine the harmony and rhythm of her music. The translation is both strange and beautiful; while these textile patterns weren’t necessarily designed to be used as a framework for music, I’m still able to hear the output of angular intersection and striking geometric symmetry. Medekšaitė’s new album, titled Textile, demonstrates that the principles behind aesthetic attraction bleed across the boundaries of the senses, even if this translation process steers the music in directions that transcend mere human inclination.

Below, we discuss the particulars of this mapping process, her interest in Indian music and the process of stimulating an open mind.

What was your first experience with mapping textile patterns onto musical parameters, and what new opportunities did this present in terms of generating/understanding sound?

The first piece to be based on the mapping of textile patterns into musical language is “Textile_1”, written for piano duo in 2006. The process itself is very simple. I created distinct melodic variations, which follow the structure of the textile pattern. For example, the amount of weft or warp represents different notes and their combination connects into melodic lines, while the rhythm remains constant throughout the piece.

I would agree that this process resembles Serialism and its methodology. On the one hand, I am also following the rules, which determines my choices by precisely following its structure. On the other hand, the final result is more important than the structure itself. In each piece, my aim is to go beyond the structure. I would say, similarly to the observation of textile patterns. At the beginning we can notice the patterns of colour, the rhythm, the density, the specific yarns. Later, we can understand or analyze the structure, how it was made.

The methodology of creating various textile patterns is very close to my compositional approach. Mostly, it is based on the very simple pattern, called rapport; where its multiplications create unity. In the same way I compose music. I use one “musical seed”, which grows into the musical landscape.

This record features realisations of your work by a variety of instruments and ensemble sizes. What drives you to explore new contexts and means by which your music can manifest?

Exploration of various weaves leads me towards the use of distinct instruments. Each composition is based on a different textile pattern, which emphasizes the connection between weave, musical idea and instrumentation. Also, the use of different instruments stimulates the creativity and how textile patterns could correspond to the various playing techniques of each instrument.

The compositions written between 2006-2009 are mostly for monochrome instruments, such as string orchestra, solo string instrument or voices. In that case I employ textile patterns, which do not only emphasize the musical idea, but also the specification of the instruments.

Pieces composed for ensembles, or symphony orchestra, are based on the textile patterns, which represent diversity, for example, jacquard textiles. In that case, I am using more complex musical patterns, which could unify all of them into one soundscape.

I’d love to know more about how this textile mapping process. Do you find yourself gravitating toward textile patterns that you expect will produce particularly interesting results? To what extent is your choice of textile pattern consciously curated?

The mapping process reveals the connections between visual and sonic objects through my personal experience and knowledge, which formulate the essential principles and aesthetic of the musical compositions. The aim is to develop techniques for creating textiles for sound regulation, thereby establishing a coherent, personal idiom by combining textile and sound.

Despite the fact that the methodology of transforming various weaves into music is based on the structure of the weave, it is also a creative process. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In this case, I try to strike a balance between intuitive and rational methods.

There are endless possibilities to create textile patterns, as there are endless choices to compose music. As I mentioned earlier, I create distinct patterns of rhythm, harmony, timbre, and dynamics, or any other musical parameter, which are based on the amount of weft or warp. I am using a textile pattern as architecture in order to shape my composition.

Sometimes, the structure of the textile pattern does not work as a musical idea, and then you need to go back and draw another one. Sometimes, the musical system does not fit the textile pattern, and again, you need to replace it with something else, or start from the beginning.

In each piece, in order to create a structure of harmony or rhythm, I am using a different Indian raga or tala, which correspond to the musical idea and textile pattern. Every Indian raga has its own time, duration, specific mode of pitches as the textile patterns, which reflect various cultures and weaving methods.

Surprisingly, even if I do employ these tools in my compositions; my music does not reveal emotion. I would say it represents motion, or particular atmosphere of sounds, or sequence of musical events. It does not have an aim to satisfy the listener. Due to it, I think it is a challenge for the listeners to feel/understand/have pleasure, because of the music being itself.

Similarly to composers Conlon Nancarrow, or Rytis Mažulis, I am interested in the process itself or in very slow transformation of sound, time, timbre, rhythm, and density. Like a scientist exploring the weaving process throughout the complexity of sound, or various patterns.

Other than textile mapping, you utilise compositional techniques such as serialism, minimalism, microtonality or stochastic composition. Is it important that your compositional process is informed by frameworks and techniques that “disrupt” the inclinations of habit and alleviate composer control?

The mapping process focuses on the translation of distinct textile fabrics into music compositions, with an eye to its relevant characteristics, emphasizing its connections and interrelatedness. In doing so, it expresses a continuity of distinct sounds by leaving the textile structures in the background.

Establishing these personal methods of transformation, I have taken inspiration from previous research, in particular various studies of the interaction between sound and textile. In addition, the mapping process bears links to serialism (pre-defined structures, order), minimalism (continuity), and stochastic processes (randomness, probability).

My first intention of mapping textile patterns, despite the fact of resembling previous compositional techniques, is to represent a musical idea throughout textile patterns or vice versa, generating a contemplative atmosphere in sound.

PHOTO BY MARTYNAS ALEKSA

PHOTO BY MARTYNAS ALEKSA

Is there a particular location or environment that you find most conducive to composing your music? 

I do not require a specific location or environment in order to compose. The only thing I need, no disturbance and “silence”.

In many of these pieces, the acoustic profile of the recording space seems to be crucial in producing particular harmonics and overtones, particularly given your frequent use of microtonality and drones. To what extent is the “shape” of your music influenced by the place in which it is performed? Do you spend a lot of time considering the placement of microphones, or choosing a suitable space for performance/recording?

The impact of drones and microtonality were naturally influenced by Indian music and by my composition studies with Prof. Rytis Mažulis. The concept of sound in Indian music and a division of tone into mircrotones can be observed in textile patterns of the relationship between warp and weft. In that case, I intuitively work with the microtones, harmonics, and overtones in order to have a very close relationship between each sound.

None of the pieces require a special environment in which it should be performed. I never had such an idea in my mind.

Personally I feel a certain emotional ambiguity in your music. Pieces like “Âkâsha” feel uplifting and sinister simultaneously, and my reaction to it is different every time I hear it. Do you find yourself gravitating toward music that explores this atmospheric complexity? 

The score has a lot of potency for the interpretation of the quality of the sound, especially in the beginning of the composition. Also, each layer depends on a quality of the instrument and requires a special care in order to produce a noise or sound.

In this composition, for the first time I used a textile pattern as a graphic score, representing various layers of sounds, which overlap and appear one by one. At the end of composition, it develops into dramatic musical landscape and returns similarly, but not as the same sound motion.

What’s it like hearing one of your compositions realised by a group of musicians for the first time?

After finishing a composition, I leave it for some time. I am nervous when attending the WP of any piece.  The best for me, is that during the rehearsal I can experience it in a more relaxed atmosphere. I feel more confident, which results from working individually with musicians and conductor.

In an interview with Radikaliai, you talk about your interest in travelling, as well as reading books and articles within the subjects of philosophy and science. Do you think this constant search for new experiences – new sights, new ways of thinking – influences the sense of fluidity and constant transformation in your work? Is this in any way reflective of a constant search for personal growth?

I think it is a very personal approach, but for me “to be active” works very well. I need a lot of inspiration in order to charge myself for the new ideas, or new composition. I love mathematics, science, physics, and philosophy. I think various ideas of different disciplines stimulate an open mind and how the same thing can be viewed or approached from different perspectives.

What other music are you listening to at the moment? 

Mostly it depends on my mood. It can be anything from Medieval or tribal folk song to Pop. I still have a lot of passion for Indian music.

Other than the release of Textile, what’s next for you and your music?

At the moment, I am working on music for drama theatre.  I hope that another album will contain a determined/specific atmosphere, where each piece will be the continuation of the previous one.