Dániel Péter Biró
Mishpatim – Laws III – Masked Shadows
premiere: Apr. 6, 2010 Victoria BC – Aventa Ensemble with Noa Frenkel, alto / Olaf Tzschoppe, percussion
Commissioned with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts
Dániel Péter Biró is Assistant Professor of Composition and Music Theory at the School of Music at the University of Victoria. In July 2004, Dániel Péter Biró completed his Ph.D. in Composition at Princeton University. He first started his musical studies at the Bartók Conservatory in Budapest, Hungary. From 1991-1992 he was a Fulbright scholar in Frankfurt, Germany where he studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Frankfurt. He later studied in Bern and Vienna.
His works have been performed at the Alte Oper-Frankfurt, at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, at the Bartók Festival in Szombathely, Hungary and have been broadcast on Swiss, Austrian, German, and on Italian public radio. He received an opera commission from the Neue Horizonte Bern/Schlachthaus Theater in Bern, Switzerland in 1998. In 1999, he was awarded the Hungarian Government’s Kodály Award for Hungarian Composers. In 2000, he received grants from Center for Near Eastern Studies and the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni for purposes of Hebrew study and dissertation research at Haifa University, Israel. In 2001, his piece The Crossing (Daf), based on a text by Franz Kafka, was performed as a commissioned piece of the Stuttgart Opera. In 2002, he was a fellow at the Atlantic Center of the Arts and in the following year received a dissertation research grant from the Princeton University Program in Judaic Studies. In 2007, his composition Simanim (Signs/Traces), was performed by members of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. This composition was commissioned by the German Radio (HR). Dániel Péter Biró was recently commissioned by Vancouver New Music to write a piece for solo viola, three voices, seven instruments and electronics.
In the summer of 2003, he was awarded a Summer Research Grant from the Princeton Council on Regional Studies, enabling him to take part in the Sommerakademie at the Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. While there, he worked with the Ensemble SurPlus, which performed the first part of his composition Mishpatim (Laws), which was presented at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt, Germany. In 2005, he was a fellow at the Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory in New York. In August 2006, the second version of Mishpatim (Laws) was performed by the ensemble recherche at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music.
Mishpatim Tslalim Reulim (Mishpatim – Laws Part III – Masked Shadows) is the outcome of research into methods of producing organized sound by means of Hebrew number symbolism (gematria). In Hebrew, each letter possesses a numerical value. Gematria is the calculation of the numerical equivalence of letters, words, or phrases, and, on that basis the exploration of the interrelationship between words, ideas and, in this case, musical sounds. All of the pitches, rhythms and techniques are derived from or reactions to text taken from part of the Hebrew Bible text Mishpatim (Laws). While the pitched ensemble instruments act as a speaking unity, the contralto serves to represent the female metaphysical power of the Torah text or shekinah. In the course of the work, phonetic elements of the text become processed via ensemble and percussion while certain images from the text are emphasized, reiterated and faded. As a musical/textual commentary of the ancient Hebrew text, the composition thematizes historical and phenomenological relationships between music and text, tradition and autonomy, collective and stranger, integration and estrangement. Re-tracing the historical becoming of these relationships to their contemporary predicament, the composition exists as a historicized, sonorous question. Many thanks to Steven Takasugi and Gidi Nahshon for their help with this piece. Mishpatim Tslalim Reulim is dedicated to Bill Linwood.
I will send an angel before you to safeguard you on the way, and bring you to the place that I have prepared.
Be careful in his presence and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, since My name is with him. He will not pardon your disobedience.
But if you obey him and do all that I say, then I will hate your enemies and attack your foes.
An angel will go before you and bring you among the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Yebusites, and I will [then] annihilate them.
Do not bow down to their gods and do not serve them. Do not follow the ways of [these nations]. You must tear down [their idols] and break their sacred pillars.
You will then serve God your Lord, and He will bless your bread and your water. I will banish sickness from among you.
In your land, no woman will suffer miscarriage or remain childless. I will make you live out full lives.
and I will throw all the people among whom you are coming into a panic. I will make all your enemies turn their backs [and flee] from you.
I will send deadly wasps ahead of you, and they will drive out the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites before you.
I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you [to contend with].
I will drive [the inhabitants] out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and [fully] occupy the land.
I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land’s inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you.
Do not make a treaty with [these nations] or with their gods.
Do not allow them to reside in your land, since they may then make you sin to Me. You may even end up worshiping their gods, and it will be a fatal trap to you.