Historical Context in the Latest Lithuanian Music: Contemporary Tensions

  • Jūratė Landsbergytė
Keywords: Germanavičius, Martinaitis, historicism, catastrophism, discourse, present, context


The historical context opens its unresolved issues inside contemporary cultural consciousness. It gives the language of music a specific dimension of dramatic tensions. Here, composers’ propositions acquire a coded imagery close to the aesthetics of modernist catastrophe. The musical text becomes highly contextual and filled with the knowledge arisen from history. It is like an encrypted message about the current transformation of history. The texture of the work becomes an expression of the signs incorporating also non-musical sounds or visual space. Semantics play a crucial role in soundscapes. In this sense, we can talk about the war and post-war semantics, which is making its comeback into Lithuanian music. Here, the aesthetic poles of tension or the dramaturgy of conflict arise and are realised through the spectra of hum or expression of identities. In this context, two recent works by Lithuanian composers should be mentioned: they accurately respond to the tensions and wounds of the Second World War that continue to bleed inside the identity consciousness of the Lithuanian nation. These wounds are the Holocaust and the post-war partisan struggle against the Soviet occupation. The topic of ‘war after war’ acquires its musical task in Vytautas Germanavičius’s (b.1969) work Red Trees (2018) for flute, cello, and organ dedicated to the partisan commander Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas. It is important to stress that Vanagas has been recognised as a de facto leader of the state and, thanks to sustained efforts of historians and archaeologists, his remains, which were discovered in the Vilnius Orphans’ Cemetery, were reburied in the Pantheon of State Leaders. All this forms an exceptional historical dimension, which finds an original reflection in Germanavičius’s work. Meanwhile, the Holocaust theme connects vividly with the 80th anniversary (late in 2020), of the deed of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat who saved over 6,000 Jews in 1940. Algirdas Martinaitis (b.1950) work Visa for Life (2020) for two flutes, oboe, and organ is dedicated to Chiune Sugihara. Here, the composer combines, in a unique way, the worlds of the Japanese, the European tradition and Jewish music. His musical expression is based on the dramaturgy of transformation (the constant running of the toccata). In this way, each composer voices the context of the past: its tension transforms the language of music. It should be noted that both works bring back the catastrophe of the Second World War and the post-war period, which is a painful drama of the history of the Baltic States and not yet sufficiently understood in the world. As a result, the former meditative face of Baltic music identity changes accordingly.
Musicology. Theatrology