Gubaidulina approaches music from a different perspective. For her artistic form is a distillation of spirit, an organic, living process both fluid and moving. In a discussion with musicologist Olga Bugrova, Gubaidulina explained how she views the three realms of melody, harmony and rhythm, or, more organically, the root, trunk and leaves of a tree:
Mulling over which of the three fundamental elements of musical fabric within the sonorous complex might be seen as the "roots" of the tree I realized that it was rhythm. All of the harmonic, the mass of the resonance, forms the "trunk," while the contrapuntal lines exemplify the "leaves." Under the conditions of sonoristics, the melody can no longer be conceived, as in the past, as the means for developing, elaborating the material. Instead, it must manifest itself as a transformation of the material itself, and the consequence of growth from the "roots" through the "trunk." ... But with all that, one must not suppress intuition nor lose imaginative spontaneity. But, why rhythm? Because it alone presupposes the agency of laws that do not conflict with a system that embraces all possible sonic and timbral conceptions. [this quote comes from Kurtz' biography, p. 175]I'm not sure what she means by the last sentence, but the rest is implying that rhythm is like a deep movement in the earth's crust that generates the harmonic waves of a tsunami while melody is the waves crashing on the land. Choose your own metaphor! Valeryia Tsenova has written an essay on the numerical aspect of Gubaidulina's music and I will take up that paper in a later post.
Gubaidulina, due to her non-compromising attitude, had been prevented for many years from traveling outside the Soviet Union to attend performances of her music. Finally in 1984 she was able to attend a special edition of the Helsinki Festival devoted to Soviet and Russian culture. The authorities were still unwilling to allow her to travel, but gave in when Veijo Vapio, the artistic director, stated that if Gubaidulina was not allowed to attend, the whole festival would be canceled! The first evening concert of the festival featured two pieces, Offertorium by Gubaidulina, followed by the Symphony No. 8 by Shostakovich. We have talked about the Offertorium before, a violin concerto written for Gidon Kremer, but let's listen to it again, re-creating this concert by hearing clips of the Offertorium followed by the Shostakovich symphony.
Now that's a concert! This event really was the beginning of a widespread recognition of Gubaidulina's importance. The Finnish composer Kalevi Aho wrote about the great impression she made on him when he visited Moscow in early April 1984:
I thought to myself that composers like Gubaidulina can only come from Russia. Perhaps it was fortuitous for her development as a composer that she had been confronted by many ... difficulties in the course of her career. Without these struggles she might not have developed her mind as much as she did; if everything had gone smoothly she might not have pushed herself to understand the reasons for being a composer or to thing about the higher purpose of her compositions. [op. cit. p. 180]The first fruits of Gubaidulina's new understanding of the rhythm of musical form was a commission for percussion ensemble, In the Beginning There Was Rhythm: