Georges Aperghis: Signaux (1978)

  • Performance Date: 2012
  • Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
  • Season: 2011-12
  • Series: MCA Chicago
  • Composer Name: Georges Aperghis
  • Composer Dates: 1963
  • Composer URL: http://www.aperghis.com/lire/bio.html#
  • Precise Instrumentation: 2 violins, 2 violas
  • Performers: David Bowlin and Erik Carlson, violins
    Maiya Papach and Wendy Richman, violas

In Aperghis' music, performers embody all of the physical concerns of performance. His music often requires musicians to leave behind their guarded roles on stage to become protagonists in the musical struggles that are presented—in Shot in the Dark (a new work written for ICE), soprano Tony Arnold is used as a storyteller in an hybrid language that is just barely recognizable but acts remarkably as a universal form of expressive communication; in other works, instrumental players sing, act, react to their own playing. In Signaux, four string players follow each closely—too closely—and are forced to consider all of the non-verbal signals at their disposal to make this fast-paced and intuitive chamber music. Unlike Mauricio Kagel's music (which mocks and toys with the conventions of performance), or John Cage's music (which inserts the outside environment into musical performance), Aperghis hands the audience the unmasked, raw, and visceral energy of performance.

An early work by George Aperghis, Signeaux is a social experiment, where four like instruments chase each other closely through a maze of musical games. Like musical semaphores, the quick decision-making needed for the players to perform this piece reveals the virtuosity of nonverbal signals that are constantly at work between the musicians.
At once a playful and energetic-sounding concert piece , and a fascinating process to watch unfold live, this piece points toward to the highly dramatic musical and theatrical hybrid that George Aperghis has perfected in his later works.
-Joshua Rubin