A conversation between Ágens and Janox accompanied by a cup of tea, a pack of cigarettes and a cat.
Az irodalom visszavág: It's difficult to give an exact definition of what you do. You're a singer , still a question crops up: how should I call you? What is the conception behind this Agent-attitude?
ÁGENS: It's a singer's attitude in the world.I have chosen a style which is a matter of choice and affinity and I made this name for myself. I don't perform under my original name .
IV: So your name is strongly related to your music.
Á: Definitely. Ágens means direction, guider , agent, spy and all these meanings are suitable for me .
IV: You live with your co-author and composer, Ferenc Boudny , who is responsible for the technical part of things, as well. How do you spend your days? Do you have the opportunity to focus your attention exclusively on music?
Á: We both work. We could probably make a living by relying on the alms and grants of different funds. But what if not. We could also sing in a bar at night or join independent bands or be extras at some theater or be the umpteenth member of a singer's backing group. I also wanted to write for papers but then I would have to do things that I don't like and if I touch sacred things like a pen or sounds then the result has to be the way I want it:polished and independent from everything. I have to feel the responsibility for every detail even if it's not successful.
IV: What is the general response to your music?
Á: My friends were completely desperate to hear me use my voice - that's otherwise suitable for anything from opera to blues and jazz - this way. Now I know the answer: this is my style. It's beyond question. The reactions tend to be quite extreme: rejection - mainly by those who are unwilling to face the things of what I sing-or total acceptance and devotion.
IV: Do musical preconceptions matter in forming one's opinion?
Á: The strange thing is that people who are well-versed in classical music are more apt to accept me than those who are only into heavy metal, rock'n'roll or contemporary music.
IV: Classical music is probably more diverse and can't really be tied to styles .
Á: I think an aria has the same kind of structure and dramatic climax as my music. Time is stopped in an aria and the aria itself stops the time inside the structure of an opera and I also use this method. A good opera singer 's voice always has something inexplicable. Like Maria Callas or Caruso , they sang in a sorrowful, intuitive way with something extra. A voice can be wonderful with nothing behind it. You know it from the history of Hungarian opera-singing: they just keep on trying but something essential is missing, something that Margit Lukács knew so well: she opened her mouth and such an elemental power came from the stage that it made you wet your pants. Perhaps that's the reason why classical music-fans find my music appealling.
IV: And how could you explain the rejective attitude?
Á: I use such a wide range of musical means that my music either creates an immediate influence by its elemental energy and becomes receptible or invokes experiences that are difficult to face. I believe in the power of subconscious. You can surround yourself with all kinds of machines or strap on their accessories and call it virtual reality but these things can't serve as a real substitute for anything. Moments can't be substituted, you can say that this love was different, your thoughts, relationships and gestures were entirely different and your hair had a different colour. I believe that we can still do something with ourselves. Just take a look at this manager -society: if you mention Tolstoy to these young people who rush about with their mobile phones and trendy briefcases and fuckin' good cars they simply don't know what you're talking about. If I said Tarkovskiy they would ask his nationality and on hearing that he was Russian they wouldn't deal with him anymore. Don't even try to mention Fassbinder. Yeah, they've heard about Mozart because it's obligatory to know something about him in a nouveau riche family, like he was a child-prodigy and composed at the tender age of 6, but that's all the information.
IV: Well, the information...
Á: I collect information from my subconscious, as other people say. It's not my task to define what I do, that's why I'm so curious about their opinion. Some people make the mistake of telling what their work of art means. I've never come across an artist who could exactly tell what his work was about. The effect of a work of art in a given time and environment has not much to do with the poor little artist. If we return to the previous question I think if something can be saved from the Thinking Human Being-and I consider myself to belong to this group-it won't be achieved by computers. I also have a computer and use it as a device but I am concerned with myself just like everyone whether they admit or not and I pay attention to the voices coming from the world. The information coming from you, the lady next door , the message of my stories and first of all the information of my own music. If I push this information to a sound system like in a concert the listeners - I mean those with whom I can start a conversation at all-start to visualize it creating inner images by my information that reaches them in an emotional way. This is the most beautiful thing I can imagine. There's a sort of image-creating, associative power in my voice. This is the way I carry information. I make signals. It would be interesting to know the effect created in Budapest by my album.
IV: Why is it so important for you to know how people react to your album?
Á: It's obviously very important because I consider this album to be the essence of my singing. I think it's my best singing, best system of sounds so far. An eighteen minute-long collection of the relation of sounds based on an established system of sounds. I'd like to know its power.
IV: Except for the last track only your voice can be heard on the CD. What is the role of this reduction of accompaniment?
Á: I've got a composer -Ferenc Boudny- who provides the accompaniment but it had no place in this musical context. I think it makes the listener a bit perplexed when whoops, it takes a new direction in the last track.
IV: Another surprise is your voice itself: singing, screaming , moaning, squawking, whispering. Just when the listener would get in its mood comes the last track as a sort of finale or punch-line . A bit of popularity after the deep things.
Á: Your approach is entirely different if you're not prepared to what you're going to hear. If I don't give any preliminary information people get really astonished for they expect something very different. They think it's gonna be some Dead Can Dance-like stuff when they see the cover ( by Zsolt Czakó) with that fine yet powerful, suggestive female face, or my interviews and photos, you know, a wild girl but it has nothing to do with that. So the information reaches them on a second hearing because they are simply not prepared. Someone told me he broke out in cold sweat by the track titled 'Vulture'. The whole point dawned upon him then .
IV: It's inevitable to have something beforehand otherwise you wouldn't be able to judge the music.
Á: If there's no previous information no reviewer or aesthician dares to take the rap. It takes a firm and learned person to discriminate between good and bad for the first time. They just go round and round it until then. t's the same in the field of fine arts, they go like 'He has an exhibition in Vienna or Helsinki or wherever now I can write that he's good, it might be all right.'
IV: The titles of the tracks like 'Cor contritum', 'Tentative', 'Soul', or 'Storm' have a broad field of association .
Á: I think the voice and the song that belong to what I call ' Cor contritum' narrow down this field and give it an absolutely straight direction, so it's not disturbing. t's a name like Ágens. I make a name for myself and make names for the different situations in what I sing: the situation of sin, quest, curse, rayer, the situation of a hawk or the Reedwoman who is my brainchild. My aim, my task is to become able to use a language in my singing that makes the message come through for a certain extent.
IV: You spend plenty of time to get prepared for a concert.
Á: usually go to see the spot or imagine it. hen I have a mood, the excitement of the performance and I test my imaginary situation. I mainly improvise.
IV: Do you have a repertoire? Is there a certain backbone of pre-composed songs that draws through the performance?
Á: It depends on the situation or the place where I perform. When it comes to polyphonic singing - like the ones on the album - a part is usually left out, so two parts are played by a minidisc and I sing to it. This also gives scope for improvising. Sometimes the improvisation takes place between two tracks, sometimes the music is ready but I improvise an entirely new part because the situation requires it.
IV: Do you often give recitals?
Á: No, my dream and aim is to make records, can't tell you how many, maybe two or five in a year or nothing in ten years. From 2 to 5 performances a year on a worthy occasion in a worthy place. This is not something to be done every week because it would lose its meaning.
IV: What is your relationship with the audience like? It takes a lot of intuition and empathy especially in your style to tune to each other.
Á: They are always interested in the first minute because they've heard or read something about me or they're just simply curious. But sometimes it happens-like at the Mediawave Festival-that when I sing my first two notes I feel like getting into a vacuum: On such occasions they say that the audience is bad but probably the performers as well for not letting out what they have or not courting the audience's favour: I never court the audience's favour. That time I felt the air got cold and I think I should have stopped the concert and bowed to them in that moment saying ' Sorry , this is not the place and time for us to meet'. I kept on singing, though and got an applause, you know an obligatory one. It was terrible, I could feel their thoughts .
But the contrary is also true: in my latest concert-at the Palace of Art -I felt such an energy-flow that it was elemental. The audience gave me loads of energy by paying attention to what I do and helped me to give a fuckin' great recital. You can always feel that something great's gonna happen from the vibration of the place. That's when actors say that 'God's come'. These are special moments, chosen performances that are obviously rare and you can't expect them all the time. Constellations also play a part in how they effect you.
IV: Do you regard the Ágens-picture painted by this album as ready?
Á: No, it's countinously changing, I would be in trouble if it wasn't. I call this evolution. It's the first step into a certain direction and see where it takes. There are a lot of possible ways and I'm gonna go further.
Translated: Gábor Harmati