Boris Kovač: Catalogue Of Memories

We are presenting our famous composer, during his concert preparations in early 2011.


In these performances, Boris Kovač will promote his latest, double cd “Chamber Music”, but also the material from the next album “Catalogue of memories”, which still hasn’t appeared on the market. There may be up to 15 musicians in a few various sets – from the string quartet to the chamber orchestra on the stages of Synagogue in Novi Sad and  Kolarac hall in Beograd and the repertoire will represent a specific retrospection of the Kovač’s entire  career. There are enough adequate reasons for us to find out something about the previous decades of work  and the actual thinking of this productive artist from at first hand.


The newest line-up that you formed is called The New Ritual, while the band you used to lead during the 80s was called Ritual Nova. Is the foundation of The New Ritual an attempt of closing the circle, examination of your own roots or something third?

After the bombing in 1999. I concluded that it is senseless for me to continue with the Ritual Nova concept and ensemble. Bombs were falling right next to us and  “our” state “protected” us with barefaced lies and completely senseless, suicidal resistance. Writing such delicate chamber music and offering it to the world seemed to me as autistic as the behavior of Nato  bombardiers and our (little) dictator. I decided to offer  the world something different – strong emotions, energy and a message – let’s dance, this may be our last night in this world. How can we confront with the cynicism of violence and manipulation? Well, with dancing, music , the last consolation between the earth and the sky.

And that is how I saved myself of despair and I saved my career: “The Last Balkan Tango” was a bull’s eye – we crossed half of the globe with it and entered anthologies…But I knew that sooner or later would return to “pure” music, the one that comes from the silence of the being, from the need to communicate with ourselves and the spiritual world. The one that I recognized way back in Ritual Nova: art as a way and an act of transformation of the being.

Of course, you can’t simply return to something like that, because what used to be doesn’t exist anymore, it has changed. So, The New Ritual Group is now a synthesis of me way back and me in the present. The program that we are performing is a cross-section of the most important work I used to do in chamber music, arranged according to the possibilities of a line up of six people. Concerts in the Synagogue and Kolarac Hall will nonetheless represent the choice of  my chamber music as it was written, in the original setting.
Considering there will be 15 performers altogether,  it is clear that this is a unique opportunity to hear that kind of music in its ideal form.
And yes, you got it, it is a specific closing of a circle, I am 55 and I deserved double beneficiary internship because I worked for three people, it is time of sumarum and lowering the gas.


Your newest album , “Chamber music”, represents your old compositions in a new performance. Was this a chance to find some things  in earlier music that were not obvious, to change things you weren’t satisfied with, to examine your own relationship towards compositions you had already left behind or something else?

That music has grown mature in time, I rewrote and adapted quite of it. I have technically often ambled after my artistic aims. In the last years I overcame that dis-balance in various ways. “Chamber music” and especially  the new material from “The Catalogue of Memories” I wrote, set up, performed, recorded and produced on a level that has grown to match my artistic scope. I wasn’t able to do that in the filed of chamber music about 15 years ago. In some lighter, more “jazzy” forms I could already do that in the mid 80s. Therefore, only from this moment I expect success that “LADAABA” and “La Campanella” had in this field. Also having in mind that this is a far less communicable music so  I cannot hope for a spectacular   commercial effect, but rather some affirmative reviews, reactions, and maybe some acknowledgments that would ease my professional situation.


What can you tell us about the new material named “Catalogue of Memories”?

That is my latest album and we are just looking for a publisher for it. I recorded it last year with 13 performers, with the most of the people who will perform in  these concerts actually. It is some kind of a synthesis of the two mentioned lines of my  work. There is contemplation, quasi – sacredness and dance quality and that makes this album something like my testament. Which is also suggested by the title – something sediment, summarized like in a catalog of memories.

I personally think this the best I have ever written, although I wouldn`t claim it as the most valuable. But this work is very important and dear to me, and after it I could peacefully retire. Which, the part of me, wants, we will see what the other part will say. Anyways I want to calm down. I`ve worn out throught these 30 years of struggling to realize my fixations and ideas, doing it in an environment that was opposite to help. It would take a lot of luck for a different ending, but, as they say, hope dies the last.

“Anamnesis”, a four-part composition that makes the first part of the “Chamber Music”, was originally written in 1992., when the war in former Yugoslavia was still in the early stages , and it dealt with reflections on current events, among the other things. What is its meaning after almost two decades later.

Message of ecumenism is very topical today, when we live in such clean national states, as well as when they were created in blood. Complementarity of the different is a cosmic law, it cannot be undone by writers of tragicomic history in this region , even when it seems that they have succeeded in that. And the mystery of that music will happen, I believe, on these performances. And in much superior form than in the original one. The music was created as one of my greatest artistic inspirations and I feel an artistic responsibility to perform it again.


Your music and its underlying thinking has always been colored by an interest in contemporary philosophical questions (and discussions), but It never sounded remarkably cerebral. Moreover, although the concept behind your music became more complex and difficult, it alone in the past decade and a half, started being more spontaneous and easier in communication. How do we find the balance?

I think that conceptual-ism is an important part of my artistic profile. Unlike typical conceptualists that make their creative act subordinate to the idea, the concept of my work is created parallel with the creation, in my case, composing. Also, the concept of the project, to some extent, continues to form during the performance of the music because I usually perform my compositions, which makes me radically different to the vast majority of academic composers.

Music is so superior artistic medium that its submission to the idea/ construct of a mind that can be said with words, would be like cutting your own wings. However, the author whose work has no authentic concept means that he is just borrowing it from another author, because behind every work of art there is a concept. In music, as the most abstract art of all, hiding behind the abstract, many authors disguise their inability to do something creative with their music what they want to say with it. That is how there is a lot of music production that does not say anything, more less skillfully connected notes that don`t mean anything. On the other hand, cerebral music, with its concept inhibits everything else, energy, emotion and experience.

I just watched myself and it turned out, surprisingly that I have needs, that I think and feel. But it turned out that these features, in my career, were not always useful.


The first decade of this century was marked by your work with the La Danza Apocalyptica Balcanica ensemble, a project which faced the tragic post historical developments in the Balkans sought to respond in magical ways – with music and dance. As a combination of high (middle) european decadence and primal joy of dancing ( and singing) of traditional music, how much was “LADAABA” successful in its aims at the end?

Message of “LADAABA” project was to shake a modern man from their conformist, consumer lethargy, and remind him that every night could be the last, and that life should be lived to the fullest: to dance the tango, as it`s the last… Concerts have been finished with my silent message Save your heart… The project was more than successful in that mission.
This project had its second halftime in the project “La Campanella”, post historical musical concept that we performed in the last five years. As the things stand now, that parallel life of mine will continue exactly because we are recording a new album. I feel a bit like I have a split personality, but that doesn`t affect my conscience.

“La Campanella” has a very precise name now: “Romantic Deca-Dance from Mittel Europe”. It is a highly aestheticized entertainment – we want the audience to forget about the bad history at least for a moment. New Ritual Group is something completely different. It`s not very easy to just move from one film to the other, but I enjoy it very much. And it is not easy to take care of two completely different orchestras.


Mythology has always been at the center of your creativity, but without direct references to/citations of specific recognizable myths. What kind of mythology stands in the heart of your music?

I have not relied on any single existing mythology but in the early beginnings with some early Slavic pagan mythologems. Art, especially music, is strongly associated with the myth as an aestheticized form of the truth. Music caries its truth, and it`s not easy to recognize her, but it can be heard by some internal senses. And the closest myth to that is never discursive, factual truth. As Kolakowski would say, one prevalents the indifference of the world with a myth… I add to it: music is the last consolation between the earth and the sky.



From your first instrument , the accordion, you fled carrying the instituionalized mistrust towards the music education. Today, after several decades, the gap between academic and popular music, is definitely not smaller, but it would be interesting to see where exactly do you see your music in between these two? Pop music, as you explained yourself, now has a role that in the centuries behind us the folk music had – while your music is definitely closer to folk music than pop music. Where does it stand exactly?

I deeply believe that I create music, one that is a single and indivisible, and that is the result of my openness to different musical languages. Sometimes it is closer to one, and sometimes to another musical language. Pure languages in the post modern era are anachronism , whether it is pop or academic music. And the folk music, what is it anyway? What is the folk in general, the things we see on TV Pink? Or the remaining sheep keepers?

All kinds of music influenced me… And that was changing as I`ve changed. 20 years ago I listened to a variety of sacred music, especially the eastern music, and 10 years ago mostly dance music, mediterranean and latin music. I don`t think that that`s a sign that I lost my mind, or my identity. Only idiots do not change.

Lately, however, I prefer playing and listening to contemplative music, I guess it comes with the age. On these concerts you will hear a wide variety of life and musical inspirations. And the question where my music is on the music market, that one my agents and promoters are struggling to find out. It`s not easy at all, for the market I was never too academic, or jazz, or wolrd, or balkan… However, true music finds its own way to the truthful audiences, so mine found it too.



Your music has always been linked to the stage performances, whether through dance, whether through the theater. In your biography you have successful works in the films as well. As film production is becoming more accessible to the individuals, can we expect more cooperations with the authors of short and experimental film, or even entering the production world in your own movie?

I did music for about 30 plays, most frequently during my stay in Slovenia. I`m interested in film music more and more in recent years, though, there is only a little film production here that would be needing my music. I, in fact, do not write applied music, but music inspired by a play or a movie. In our cinematography there is rarely any room for original music, much more for functional sound curtains. So it could happened that maybe two or three composers write music for 90% Serbian movies in the last couple of decades…

I`m waiting for a new Trier or Fellini to emerge from our region, directors who understand the power of music, so they can call me. By that time, who knows… I`ve worked on visualizations of my music and that was to me very attractive, picture and the music, without subtitles,acting… that is the purest form of film for me. Although I like to see a narrative movie, and I love seeing a good quality American production, but the true art of the film is the author film, that has in the world, as well as here become a rare exotic flower. Perhaps some young directors can change something in that context.


To what extent will the performances that promote “Chamber Music” be different from the theatrical upswinging performances of “LADAABA”? Will occasional chamber atmosphere completely replace the passion that you have had us used to, in the past decade of dancing performances?

I hope that the passion, though maybe not in the same way, and that visible, still will be the driving force in these concerts. Musicians that I work with are not just regular note readers. They are great performers, artists of interpretation. Some of them are more classically minded , some of them more jazz or ethno. Svetlana Spajic, our ethno diva from Beograd, doesn`t even read music, which is fascinating in this context. Everyone becomes one when the musical ritual starts. But certainly there will be no theatrical elements, simply because this is going to be a revue to a retrospection of my chamber music, and not a conceptually and thematically completed project, as I usually do.



Translation from original article (21.01.2011) : Vladislava Vitić




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