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'Like a terrifying chorus of ghostly aliens.' Why you just have to suffer Anna Korsun in November Music.

'Anna Korsun stood head and shoulders above her peers with her surprising, introspective and communicative music.' I wrote that in 2014, when she won the Gaudeamus Award won. 'We are definitely going to hear more from her,' I concluded, and since then the Ukrainian has more than fulfilled that promise. She has made a name for herself as a composer, pianist, vocalist, conductor and (co-)organiser of concert series. Her work has been performed at all major modern music festivals and earlier this year she was awarded the Open Ear Prize by the Vibrating Air Foundation. In November Music, Modelo62 presents a cross section of her now more than 50 compositions.

With its cross-genre programming, The Hague Ensemble is the ideal interpreter of Corsun's music. The musicians have previously championed such idiosyncratic composers as Sedje Hémon and Petra Strahovnik. Anna Korsun also likes to colour outside the lines and makes cross-connections with visual arts, dance, theatre and literature. She involves professional and amateur musicians as well as non-musicians in her work and is also active as a vocalist and keyboard player. She also directs musical projects and teaches composition at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.

Poetic music

Korsun has a great love for the human voice and weaves arcs of tension out of unheard sounds, laced with expectant silences. With her poetic music, she manages to touch the hearts of even the unsuspecting layman. 'Her work is an unadulterated and highly original combination of archaic and enchanting musical arrangements,' wrote the Open Oor Prize jury. Born in 1986 in Donetsk, she studied composition and music theory at the Music Academy in Kiev, before moving to Munich. There she continued her studies with Moritz Eggert at the University of Music and Theatre.

A bull's-eye, as it turned out. 'I did not know Moritz when I was admitted to his class, but it was a happy coincidence, he was and is very important to me. He gave many useful pieces of advice and was always open to questions on any subject. Moritz has a number of brilliant skills. For instance, he has great analytical skills, is an extremely talented musician and has good intuition. I enjoyed every lesson and all our conversations.'

Own voice?

Yet it is going too far to say that she has found her own voice thanks to Eggert. 'Finding your "own voice" is a complex process determined by many circumstances. It is especially important to know that someone supports you in your search. But honestly, I wouldn't even claim to have formed my own voice. After all, that would mean I am stuck with a certain style, whereas I prefer to develop further. Anyway, you never know exactly when and by whom or what you are influenced, it happens subconsciously.'

She definitely did not become a musical epigone of Eggert. 'Our musical directions are very different and that's the way it should be. It's terrible if the student becomes a copy of his or her teacher. I don't like comparing art anyway and wouldn't know how. An artistic expression is always unique. And whether you like something or not is purely a matter of personal taste.'

Ghost choir of aliens

The very construction of the concert on 5 November is in keeping with Anna Korsun's adventurous spirit. Four of her pieces will be presented at two different venues. From seven o'clock to half past seven, Modelo62 plays at the Grote Kerk in den Bosch. In this sleekly designed, sunlit space, first of all you will hear Pulsar for organ and soprano, performed by Korsun himself.

With sustained, pulsating tones, she weaves a hypnotic web of sound in which voice and organ blend seamlessly. In the ensuing Signals are fourteen musicians equipped with a megaphone. An array of shrieks, screams, whistles, prefaced fragments of lyrics and stretched vocals circle the audience. - Like an eerie chorus of ghostly aliens.


After this, audience and musicians adjourn to the Willem Twee Toonzaal for the second part of the concert. The claustrophobic Tollers Zelle for guitar and voice is inspired by the German poet and revolutionary Ernst Toller. He was one of the leaders of the communist Bavarian Raden Republic, which was proclaimed immediately after WWII but only existed for a year; in 1919, Toller was imprisoned.

The guitar is tuned differently and is also played with a wine glass. The glissandi thus formed find an echo in the voice, which, above all, has to sing 'not classically'. Thus Korsun creates an oppressive universe in which once again the boundaries between instrument and man are blurred. The portrait ends with Ucht for ensemble and tape, in which Korsun once again treats our ears to unheard, mysterious sounds.

Anna Korsun's music eludes analysis and cannot be pigeonholed. You simply have to undergo it, like an adventure whose outcome you cannot foresee. But those who dare to immerse themselves in Korsun's private universe will be richly rewarded.

Good to know Good to know
November Music 5 November 2019
19.00 - 19.30; Anna Korsun - Pulsar / Signals (Grote Kerk)
20.00 - 20.30: Anna Korsun - Tollers Zelle / Ucht (Willem Twee Toonzaal)
More info and tickets here.

Thea Derks

Thea Derks studied English and Musicology. In 1996, she completed her studies in musicology cum laude at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in contemporary music and in 2014 published the critically acclaimed biography 'Reinbert de Leeuw: man or melody'. Four years on, she completed 'An ox on the roof: modern music in vogevlucht', aimed especially at the interested layperson. You buy it here: In 2020, the 3rd edition of the Reinbertbio appeared,with 2 additional chapters describing the period 2014-2020. These also appeared separately as Final Chord.View Author posts

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