Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lithuanian Composers Union

One of the many legacies of the Soviet Union in Lithuania is its socialist engineering of residential spaces. Images of rows of identical block apartment buildings aside, an interesting example of this type of planning in Vilnius is the Lithuanian Composers Union, situated in a quiet neighborhood west of the city center.

The LCU is the major hub for all Lithuanian composers and houses copies of every score, recording, and other publications by its past and current members. The building is also home to the Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Center, the major promoter of all Lithuanian composers and performers, including popular and folk music. In addition to maintaining a comprehensive website dedicated to its artists, it publishes and rents scores, operates three Lithuanian record labels, and helps to organize major events, including this year's ISCM World Music Days.

Last week, I visited the LCU in hopes of finding some useful materials about Lithuanian music. Linas Paulauskis, the director of the LMIPC, is quiet but extremely helpful. Not only did he offer to connect me with a few possible librettists, but he did not hesitate to lend me scores (some of which were one of only two copies) and recordings of the most recent and, in some cases, unpublished Lithuanian music. For one unpublished and unperformed opera, I was given a photocopy of the manuscript and a recording of the composer himself singing all the vocal parts over a midi realization of the instrumental parts.

Getting back to the main point of this blog post, the most unique thing about the LCU is its surrounding neighborhood, which is made up of a collection modest rowhouses on quiet alleys branching off of the main street. It was in these houses that Lithuania's composers lived together in a relatively isolated artist community. Each of the houses bears a plaque indicating its former composer resident and the years of residence.

In addition to the rowhouses, there stands a much larger apartment building- at least 14 units- which housed no one but composers. Both Osvaldas Balakauskas and Feliksas Bajoras live there. It is hard to imagine a composer who would not have been influenced by his neighbor at some point.

And while today many Lithuanian composers have chosen to move elsewhere as their economic independence increases, at least half of all important composers in Lithuania live next to the Composers Union. It must have been quite an experience to develop alongside every other composer in Lithuania. Given this fact, the diversity among their works should be seen as evidence of extraordinary creativity in what otherwise might have been a compositional melting pot.

1 comment:

Zeejay said...

The listing of events for World Music Days is amazing. Hope you will be able to see the "Love and other Demons" opera even though it's been sold out?