The Hague-based artist Leo Svirsky in conversation with Nico de Rooij in Black and White Radio.
In this special episode in frame of the Rewire Festival, his concert will be streamed the 8th of May 2021, 20.25h on www.rewirefestival.nl.
The Russian-American composer unpacks the vision behind his acclaimed Unseen Worlds debut, ‘River Without Banks’. Created through an extensive collaborative process with Reinier van Houdt, Germaine Sijstermans, Johnny Chang, Catherine Lamb, Bryan Eubanks and many others, ‘The River Without Banks’ immerses the listener in never ending reverberation, unbinding place and time and blurring the perception of past and present.
Leo Svirsky (b. 1988, USA) is a Russian-American pianist and composer currently based in the Hague, Netherlands. His music explores the instability of listening and the disorientation of memory and affect while remaining grounded in history and symbol, song and story. His varied musical interests have led to performance situations as diverse as Richmond VA’s Cat Mansion, the Kremlin Armoury, and the Cathedral of Nantes.
Raised in the suburbs of Washington DC, at age 9 he began piano studies with the eminent Russian pedagogue Irena Orlov, herself a student of Nathan Perelman, one of the last representatives of the philosophical and free-spirited St. Petersburg (Leningrad) “school” of piano playing. The study of piano led to an interest in Soviet and post-Soviet “unofficial” culture, “forgotten” pieces from the 20s like Shostakovich’s Aphorisms, and avant-garde music of the 70’s and 80’s like the Sonatas of Tatiana Voronina and Galina Ustvolskaya, always with a wealth of personal stories and anecdotes, most of which were not public information.
Irena was married to the preeminent Soviet musicologist, Genrikh “Henry” Orlov, one of the first to publicly discuss the 4th Symphony of Shostakovich in the USSR. Following his death in 2007, Irena gave Leo the unpublished English language manuscript of Orlov’s philosophical work, The Tree of Music. The encounter with this book led to an even sharper divergence from the typical American musical education. The focus became the search for the music behind and beyond the score, to an interest in (other)world musics, in particular (though certainly not exclusively), north Indian dhrupad, Shona mbira music, and pan-African “Creative Music”. A powerful early experience was a series of two concerts with Marshall Allen (at 95 and counting, the current leader of Sun Ra’s Arkestra!), and Elliot Levin together with Dr. Thomas Stanley (author of the Execution of Sun Ra).
In 2009, Leo moved to Netherlands to study with the late Dutch pianist Rian de Waal at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. De Waal was himself a collaborator of other exponents of the “St. Petersburg school.” Following a chance attendance of a “Studium Generale” with John Oswald (plunderphonics!), Leo began years of composition lessons and shared philosophical reading with the Dutch composer and writer, Cornelis De Bondt, initially on Cornelis’ own time.
He holds Masters Degrees in both Composition and Piano Performance from this institution, where he also studied with Martijn Padding (composition), and Ellen Corver (piano).
Living in Europe allowed Leo to further his exploration of “creative” music, recording with luminaries such as Veryan Weston (UK) and Katt Hernandez (Sweden). It also made possible many varied collaborations with the musical community associated with Edition Wandelweiser, notably Germaine Sijstermans, Jeromos Kamphuis, Johnny Chang, Rishin Singh, Jack Callahan (Die Reihe) and many others.
00.24 River Without Banks – Leo Svirsky.
05.17 Akvarium – Gorod Zolotoy . Аквариум – Город.
07.50 Yanka Diyagileva Garden (Sad). Сад.
11.30 Nyamaropa – Mhuri Yekwa Zhakata Mbira Singles Collection.
14.27 Field of Reeds – Leo Svirsky.
22.20 Sleep Gunner Live at the Bimhuis – ilyboa.
25.40 Orquestra del Tiempo Perdido – Feels.
29.30 Christodolous Halaris – The wheel by Ioannis Koukouzelis.
36.20 Rain Rivers Forest Corn Wind Sand – Leo Svirsky.
42.40 Germaine Sijstermans – Lavendula.
47.12 Unstern, All the kingdoms of the world – Leo Svirsky.
56.40 Yanka and Kommunizm White Light. Белый свет