A Mis•encyclopaedia of Musical Imperfections


Platypus Ensemble & Márcio Steuernagel



Platypus Ensemble

Márcio Steuernagel, conductor and composer


Becoming (2019) | Markus Sepperer, oboe

– four études and an aria for solo oboe
étude: dynamics (summoning)
étude: registers (a bird)
étude: multiphonics (quasi un corale, quasi Monteverdi)
étude: repeated notes (take a digeridoo)
aria: becoming

Études para Quijote (2019) | Veronica Klavzar, harp

– seven études for solo harp
étude: harmonic interference (a game of bells)
étude: one-finger tremolo (fanfare)
étude: basso (battuto, feroce)
étude: glissandi (pasacalle)
étude: ostinato (ad lib, ma veloce)
étude: arco (Aria on the G strings)
étude: classical harmonics technique (a broken lullaby)*1

The Great in-Betweenness (2020) | Eric Lamb, flute

– six études and three melodies for solo flute
étude: trills (it shimmers, shivers: lives)
étude: whistle tones (a fugue of failures)
une mélodie étude: different articulations (molto parlante)
étude: transitions (inbetweennesses)
uma melodia
eine Melodie
étude: over/under-blowing (bodily: a pífano dance)
étude: diaphonic/multiphonic (…but how many voices unsung?)

LUMEN de LUMINE (2016, rev. 2022) | Marianna Oczowska, violin

on the unspeakable NAME of (2021/2022) | Kaoko Amano, voice

– five meditations for solo soprano
meditation: ex-/ins-piration
meditation: più lento possible (impossibly slow)*
meditation: vibrato, trillo, coloratura (terribilis iubilatio)
meditation: lowest, then lower (sequentia)*
meditation: impossible vowels (a self-sung lullaby)

always only once again (2021/2022) | Stefanie Prenn, cello

– three études, a pilgrimage and a prayer for solo cello
étude: residual pitches (emerging chorale & tempi)*
pilgrimage: once in our hearts étude: residual sounds (molto cantabile – ma segreto!)*
pilgrimage: once again in our hearts
étude: non-/harmonic (uncontrolled, unknown, yet wished-for)*
tunning-prayer (a change of soul)
pilgrimage: once again in our hearts

A Mis•encyclopaedia of Musical Imperfections presents a compendium of solo cycles composed by Márcio Steuernagel exploring musical imperfection. This collection focuses on elements of each instrument which, while idiomatic to them, cannot be fully predicted, controlled, or repeated, or are elsewise extremely risky and unreliable; aspects which resist notation or deviate greatly from it in performance; elements which directly oppose established tenets of classical performance practice and techniques. In short, things “that do not really work,” or are, in one way or another, imperfect. The concert is structured as a “mys•encyclopaedia”, superposing two different curatorial approaches: on one hand, it creates an inventory of musical imperfections as embodied in each different instrument. The listener can contemplate some imperfections afforded by the flute, others by the cello, and so on. On a second and perhaps deeper lever, it collects and sets into play many different senses of musical imperfection. In both curatorial approaches, the album subverts the 18th century encyclopaedic spirit. The senses of musical imperfection that emerge in the music do not subject to a tidy taxonomy of categories and sub-categories, but rather connect in a furiously rhizomatic manner, continuously shifting: a mobile quickly spinning on its multiple axes.

The focus on imperfection creates a great amount of deviation between each performance of the same score, enhancing the impossibility of a single perfect interpretation. For this reason, some of the pieces that comprise each solo cycle are played more than once. The macro-composition of the concert includes each solo played once in its integrity. The flute, oboe, and cello cycles are played in a unified performance. The soprano and harp cycles have its movements spread throughout the program, creating a unifying line for the concert. Finally, the solo violin piece functions as an exception – a term directly related to “imperfection” – breaking the rules of the concert in not belonging to a cycle and performing from a greater distance from the audience. The few selected repeated movements are aggregated around a common sense of musical imperfection with its neighbouring pieces, in a principle similar to an encyclopaedical entry.

A Mis•encyclopaedia of Musical Imperfections is as part of Márcio Steuernagel’s Artistic Doctoral Research at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Graz/Zürcher Hochschule der Künste on the topic of imperfection in music as a fundamental compositional and performative dimension. During this research, which has lasted four years, Steuernagel has collaborated with the Platypus Ensemble as conductor and composer.

Márcio Steuernagel | Vienna, January 21, 2022


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Photo: Maria Frodl

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