Not Reconciled

Title: Not Reconciled
Instrumentation: Clarinet, violoncello, trombone, guitar and percussion
Duration: approx. 14 min.
Year: 2002–03
Premiere: März Musik, Berlin 2004
Performers: Ensemble SurPlus

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Not Reconciled (Ming Tsao, Edition Peters, mm. 1–4)

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Nicht versöhnt (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1965)

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Not Reconciled (Ming Tsao, Edition Peters, mm. 154–163)

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Nicht versöhnt (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1965)

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Not Reconciled (Ming Tsao, Edition Peters, mm. 179–85)

Not Reconciled (excerpt)

With an arduous and earnest pursuit of looking for a needle in a haystack, especially if it is questionable if one has been hidden there, we would nevertheless begin to learn something: the sound and language of the hay itself. And after a while, our search would no longer be for some needle, but rather for the message of the hay and a way to decode it. Tsao speaks of the “traces of music: the sound of fingernails brushing against strings, the rattling of snares on a snare drum or the clicking of clarinet keys.” These are all the artifacts of musical production, the debris if you will. And at first glance, like any debris—even that of history…the debris of memory—the assumption of disorganization is misleading: in actuality, its precision is ruthless. The question here, as it was for Straub and Huillet in their film Nicht Versöhnt (Not Reconciled), is to make the intended precision experientially palpable and not in the least arbitrary. By stripping bare both time, pacing and action, film has the possibility to emerge through its stark visual language. At first, Tsao’s strategy appears subtly yet conscientiously processual, then expressively yet meticulously exclamatory, later via punctilious temporal elongation and adjustment, soon through the prismatic lens of local repetition, and finally through extreme yet precisely timed distention. What is of greatest interest here however: what is violence in the work and how or how it is not responded to, and what is beauty in the work and the relationship between the violence and beauty as it is formulated by the compositional mind that designs and configures it.
Steven Takasugi