The Kyiv branch of the National Composers’ Union of Ukraine hosted a press conference devoted to the preparations for the Nicola Visalli Microtonal Music Competition.
The competition is organized by the Individualis Concert- Producer Center, the National Composers’ Union of Ukraine, and Maestro Nicola Visalli. The jury will include the distinguished Ukrainian composers Yevhen Stankovych, Ihor Shcherbakov, and Mykhailo Chemberzhi. The creative director of the competition is the violinist Ostap Shutko. The competition is scheduled for May 2006 and will be open to pianists, violinists, and guitarists under 32 years of age. The organizers promise that the competition rules will appear on www.individualis.com.ua in January.
The idea behind the competition is to popularize microtonal music in Ukraine. In the first round the musicians will compete in three nominations; then two finalists in each category will compete in the second round.
The Italian composer Nicola Visalli received a classical music education. He is a clarinetist, like his father, a member of the famous La Scala orchestra. He took up composition when he was 18 years old, focusing on jazz, neoromanticism, and other styles and trends of the 20th century. Four years ago he began devoting his creative work exclusively to microtonal music.
What is microtonal music and what is so special about this composer whose works are little known in Ukraine? A musical scale consists of seven tones/notes, although professional musicians specify that it has 12 semitones. Nicola Visalli believes that people must use all the sounds that the ear can pick up. The composer maintains that whereas an octave is divided into 1,200 segments, with the minimum interval accessible to human hearing being 20 segments, an ordinary semitone is made up of 100 segments. Thus, the traditional scale obviously uses only one-fifth of the sounds that people actually hear. Visalli says that he selects a certain harmony in every composition, because there are thousands of microtonal scales. These scales are used all over the world, but while other modern composers only use it to provide “color,” as a means of expressiveness, for Visalli it is a full-fledged composition technique. New technologies are opening up new worlds of sound and new techniques of playing classical instruments. To perform a microtonal composition on a classical instrument like the piano, it must be tuned the right way; then it does not need a new notation. Actively propagating this type of notation, Visalli believes that special microtonal instruments should be designed. He is now collaborating with Italian experts, who are building pianos with 16 keys to the octave rather than the usual 12.
Visalli’s innovative and inventive skills are indisputable. More importantly, however, his music is performed frequently throughout the world, with favorable press coverage. A Web site where his music can be heard free of charge has been visited by over 1,000 users in a short period of time. The composer admits, however, that his works lack melody in the romantic sense of the word; it may sound unusual to the Slavic ear. In his creative quest he is finding parallels with Oriental music and pre-classical composers. In propagating microtonal music, Visalli is collaborating with Philip Berta (US guitarist) and Belgian cellist Nicolas Deletaille, who plays a special microtonal arpeggione. It is Visalli’s second visit to Ukraine, thanks to his creative contacts with the Ukrainian violinist Ostap Shutko.
Shutko, who has won several international competitions, is one of the most dynamic young musicians in Ukraine. Touring all over the world (some 100 concerts a year), Shutko performs both a traditional violin repertoire and chamber music, along with his own arrangements and modern works, some of which are specially commissioned for him. A considerable part of his repertoire consists of Ukrainian compositions. In 2003 Shutko founded the Individualis Concert- Producers Center in order to popularize classical music in Ukraine and support young talents. Celebrated musicians appear in the Ostap Shutko Musical Soirees that have been held regularly since 2004. Ostap Shutko has been a professor of the violin chair at the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine since he was 22 years old.