The Silent Turn in Onutė Narbutaitė’s Creative Work: A Longing for the Existentialist Era

  • Jūratė Landsbergytė
Keywords: Narbutaitė, existentialism, literature, context, soundscape


Onutė Narbutaitė’s recent works exemplify her exceptional propensity for existentialist literature. Combined with views of the epoch, these works were inspired by the Thomas Mann Festival in Nida and revealed the composer’s inner world of suggestions, contexts, and colours. The placing of context in music became the new existentialist space in the composer’s work. Her style is formed, respectively, from the dramaturgical vaults of minimalism (Interludium, 1983) to the vibrating spectral soundscapes that purify fragility and penetration and link the sound of wind and a tense string with non-existence. Among such works is the trilogy that had evolved at the concert of Narbutaitė’s music at St Catherine’s Church on 17 November 2018. In her comments, Narbutaitė emphasises the unifying depth of these works: the fragility of the relationship between sound and silence, darkness and light, and the visual context breaking into the musical space. Primarily, it is an existential aspect of tension of stringed instruments in Was There a Butterfly? for chamber orchestra (2013), Just Strings and Light Wind above Them for string quartet (2017), and the trilogy of the author’s concert: Labyrinth for soprano and flute (2017), In the Emptiness for piano (2016), and Heliography for female voice, viola, cello, and Persian drums (2015). Being together with the authors of texts – Ingeborg Bachmann, Jorge Luis Borges (Labyrinth), Edmundas Gedgaudas, Vaidotas Daunys – is also very significant for the composer, because she herself is a poet longing for poetic expressionism. They add the touch of sound and silence with the meaning of the diary experience currently permeating Narbutaitė’s creative work and shaping her musical style with the semantic codes of expression of existentialist philosophy: tense strings, vibrating spaces, the soundscape prevailing at the edge of harmony and destruction – the glow of the European sunset.