24. January 2023

Resistance and flying sparks

On 29 January, we will perform the world premiere of Milica Djordjević’s work Nalet as part of our series “Musikfabrik im WDR” and at the ACHT BRÜCKEN festival we will be able to premiere solo compositions by the Serbian composer. Raoul Mörchen spoke with the her in anticipation and reveals how she creates a new piece.

The new ensemble piece is far from being finished and Milica Djordjević has learned something important: It’s better not to talk about it. “It has already happened that I announced things that I was later to entirely dismiss. For me composing is a process that is accompanied with slightly chaotic elements.” Neither the concrete progression nor the end of the process follow a fixed scheme. The beginnings do not resemble each other either, and are fought for using differing strategies. Things don’t fall into her lap, says Djordjević. She has to repeatedly start from scratch, in order to extract ideas, sounds and material from her dark imagination, as a kind of murmuring with which she can then work. 

At the same time there is no shortage of inspiration. Since her school days she has loved both the natural sciences and the fine arts along with impulses from literature and political current events. Sometimes these fields are also super-imposed, such as with the percussion concerto Jadarit, that Milica Djordjević recently wrote for Musikfabrik’s percussionist Dirk Rothbrust. Jadarit is an extremely rare mineral that was first discovered a few years ago, and has a close resemblance to the legendary kryptonite from the Superman cosmos. It was named after the only place where it was ever discovered, the Jadar valley in Serbia, and in addition to Boron, also contains lithium which is essential for battery production. It is supposed to be mined in Serbia and is a controversial political issue. Economy stands against ecology. The prospect of extreme profit against an almost unavoidable large-scale destruction of nature. All of these elements ultimately flowed into my work. The scientific fascination of the new element, the bizarre coincidence of the factual and fictitious and the concern for an ecological deforestation, that could potentially destroy almost a third of the country. 

Incidentally Milica Djordević would like to reveal this much about the new piece: the new solo piece for Dirk Rothbrust, which is one of three commissioned works for members of Ensemble Musikfabrik, will be premiered at the Cologne Festival Acht Brücken in 2023 and will follow up on this complex. This will not only be from a thematic point of view, but also a musical one. “I would like to implant material from the concert into the solo like stem cells.” This is like in most or in fact all of her scores: “sparks fly from one score to the next.”

Milica Djordjevic © Astrid Ackermann

Whatever inspires Milica Djordević, the idea never leads directly to the score but takes a detour via the illustrations. “For me personally, it is the most natural and intuitive way to imagine the sounds and forms is to draw them. At least I then have the clarity of what I will do next.” Once the overall form has its rough outline, then she can heave out various other building sites. “I don’t have to start at the beginning and anyway do not work bar by bar or chronologically. Sometimes I begin in the middle and then jump back and forth.” And the end? It is not necessarily the end. Milica Djordević loves to develop her work in collaboration with her performers, especially regarding solo works, and is absolutely willing to adjust details during rehearsals or even after performances and always reacts to observations or suggestions from others. “Magical things can happen when closely collaborating with musicians.” 

Raoul Mörchen (Translation: Peter Veale)