Sniffing Between the Angels' Toes...
An interview with ┴gens by ┴gnes Ivacs
┴: Once I held a concert in a gallery... It was entitled as "Self-portrait or tableau with a Lady"... According to the subject my song had the title "Song of the female". It was an improvisation held in the in the Vßci utca, mainly for a bourgeois audience... I was invited to sing...
Whose exhibition was that?
┴:It was that of a whole group. Each member had a picture exhibited. The audience mainly consisted of elderly people. Typical people usually visiting the concerts at the Music Academy and the Opera-House... Following the concert and old lady congratulated and kindly asked me "By the way, what is your name, my dear?" "I am ┴gens," I said... "I have never heard about you..." she answered. "But your performance was beautiful. You rendered these new works by Kurtßg unknown for me in brilliant way. Do you also have an acquaintance with the Master?" I was not able to give her any prompt answer... I remained silent for a while... I recapitulated that I was present at the Music Academy in the last year when he was awarded with some award... He was "officially recognized in Hungary" at long last... Eventually I told her that neither the Master himself, nor his works are known by me. The songs of the concert were composed by me... "These songs were really composed by you my dear?" she asked. "Oh..." She was quite surprised... This was a quite unusual situation for her. She lost any point of reference: No any idea she had to whom she was talking.. Then she took out her notebook of her reticule, an old-fashioned, little copybook of graph paper, and wrote down my name with a pencil, not with a pen.. She wrote into it ┴gens.
Did she also write down your telephone number?
┴: No, she didn't. She did not want to make any personal acquaintance. It was much better: she wished only to record that on that day something happened which might be important... To be recorded in a notebook is a great thing.. On that day something happened... "┴gens"... This word has been written in her notebook...
Do you have any ideal? The reason of this question is the fact that you have mentioned only one singer, Maria Callas.
┴: No, no any ideal I have. There are events instead which bring me closer to certain things, as well as persons somehow related to these events. Regarding Callas, I instinctually feel that behind her "real voice" another voice was hiding. Similar guess I have in connection with Kathleen Ferrier, too.
Then let us speak about your particular style. Why don't you have any "style"?
┴: Do you really think that I don't have any style?
I think it in the sense of the world according to which nowadays singers used to be categorized.
┴: I think that I have a style. OK, it cannot be stated that it is a kind of jazz or something like that. But, for instance, in the "Strangers in The Night" there are present certain elements of jazz, too. Sometimes I sing opera, too.
Do you mean that the song itself depends on the particular situation?
┴. Certainly. However, I always feel ashamed of myself whenever I try to expound my singing. My voice, my style, or let me say that my genre together can carry the can instead of me. My genre manifests itself through the "Agnus Dei" or the "Homo non est", or the "Ways of Transubstantiation".
OK that is why the question arises: these performances are so different to each other. How can you compare the "Agnus Dei" to the "Strangers in The Night"?
┴: Damn! I definitely think that they are comparable...
But I think that the only reason for that is that each of them is performed by you.
┴: Yes. My genre obtained some independent existence. It swirls around me in the space. It has been born.
You mentioned that you used some "bookmarks"....
┴: Yes, I did it in connection with my hearing music. I really have to admit that I do it very rarely. It is so because I live music with such intensity as if it would be me ho sings or performs. It makes me suffer physically.... There is no difference between my singing and listening music... It can make me so tired that it is difficult to survive. The problem is that during listening some music I also hear my own voice simultaneously... So the music cannot absorb or dissolve me. I cannot relax... The melody has an independent existence in my mind, too... Consider e.g. Bach's "The Art of Fugue". I composed some words to it in Latin... For my first musical experience: I was a pupil in the first years of the primary school. My father bought me a record player. It was a "new item" here at that time... He started to play the record of Tshaikovsky's piano concerto in H flat minor (B-moll?). It made me sob... I wriggled on the floor... And this experience made the idea arise that I took a strip of paper --it was chosen properly to be flexible and in the same time solid enough--, I bent its one end a little bit, I broke it, and started to use it as a vibrating instrument. It was great! I felt to be the whole world. I was completely absorbed by its sound or "music". I did not perceive that my father came to my room, my mother wanted to speak to me... They believed that I became crazed. I concealed my patterns under the carpet. When my mother found them she tore them to pieces. It was an irrecoverable damage because it was very difficult and complicated work to find the proper piece of paper. It also happened to me that stealthily I tore out a page from a book because its special quality. Simply I was not able to resist... The persistence of the paper was very important point of view, too. A good one endured even for five or six occasions.
And simply you made these papers to vibrate?
┴: Yes. For instance, when I read some fiction and the conversations in it, all of the characters were/was me. I lived it completely. But the best experiences were related to music. When I was in love I survived my disappointments by the means of such playing music.
Did that amplify your abilities?
┴: Yes, it did. It also multiplied my emotions.
So these strips of papers were the "bookmarks"
┴: My parents called this activity "bookmarking". And though I was punished for that I did not stop doing it. Even its reminiscences make me ashamed at the very present moment. I can do it only in complete solitude, when I am completely alone.. This situation is so defenseless. As if my soul could fly away... As if I were transformed into a different personality... It definitely is not some game. It is rather some secret ceremony of initiation. Otherwise I confess that I use it even in these days. For instance, consider the words of the "Strangers in The Night". Since for a long time I did not made efforts to memorize any text I had great difficulties with it. I was able to remember it whenever I considered it to be some pure text without any musical relations. However, whenever I tried to sing it as the words of music I was not able to do it. I was not able to remember it as a song. So I had to return to my well proved old method. This was the only means by the use of which I was able to learn this song. I use this method very seldom, because I cannot do it without feeling some feeling of guilt. Several activities are associated with some guilty conscience in my mind. Singing is a rare exception.
Please, say something about your teachers and masters!
┴: It always was a crucial problem for me to find appropriate teachers or masters. I never found a proper one. The only master appropriate for me was myself. I became my own teacher, and educated myself according to the current stage of development of my own mind. I found only one different real master who taught me how to sing. It was Tarkovsky. I admit that this may sound strange because Tarkovsky not a well-known master of singing. But --as later on I realized it-- his tableaus, his pictures in which the time as physical dimension seems to be completely eliminated, the inner relations within these pictures fit very well to my mind, or the relations I think to understand of the huge set of phenomena in this world. I feel to understand the signs and allusions of his projected pictures. There are incredible looks and glances in his films. So it is he how can teach me how to sing.
Could you mention a particular scene by Tarkovsky, which strongly grasped your mind?
┴: For instance a scene in the "Stalker" in which people are travelling with a car. When they are within the "zone" --it is a secret path, which does not exist, however, its presence somehow can be felt. Or the scene in which they approach a small hut containing the room in which they can meet God or themselves. Or the scene in the "Sacrifice" in which the main character insulates his family from the world for seven years. What does this seven-years-long solitude mean? I can also mention the scene with the candle in the "Nostalgia". Or the "Mirror", one of my favorites. Or the last scene in the "Solaris" when you perceive the island in the sea and realize that this island also is the creature of the see itself.
So one of your masters is Tarkovsky...
┴: The other one is Pilinszky. His "pictures" as the "Nights soaking in the solitude of the placards" or "the true one covered by sin" I exactly understand because I already lived the same situations. Or the movie by Gßbor Bˇdy: "Narcissus and Psyche"... This was the first occasion when I saw Pilinszky. By that time I already knew his poems but I was not aware of the true influence these poems made on me. So they teach me to sing, they are my masters... I can identify myself with them as a piece of relation or knowledge of the world... Whenever I re-read their poems / movies I can feel again what I expect, and in the same time I also understand something new: some new love, new experience, desperation or suffer. Just what need at that time, it is given to me...
Do the movies require the same absorption as listening music?
┴: Yes, they do. Nowadays I am not able to see the movie to the end as far as the "Psyche" or the "Stalker" is concerned. I can see only excerpts of fragments.
And then you simply stop seeing the movie?
┴: Yes. I have to stop seeing it and I continue it at some other time. The simple act of processing the impression requires sol lots of energy as singing.
And what do you think about your audience? May they have some similar experience?
┴: Sometimes it happens that they say: "This is not a typical ┴gens's day".
Do you expect something from your audience?
Do I expect something? yes, sometimes I do.
And what do you expect if you expect anything at all?
┴: I expect them to come with me, to keep pace with me...
On what reason can you expect that? Can you show them something, which cannot be experienced on other occasions?
┴: Yes. If it succeeds, it is an exceptional experience.
What can you make them to feel? Is it a kind of trance?
┴: I simply say the truth. I don't beat about the bush. I speak frankly.
And what is the subject of your speech or manifestation?
┴: The true reality as it is.
Isn't it your subjective truth?
┴: I think that what I make has some penetrating force, it can transubstantiate the audience and can break trough these subjective relations.
As far as I am informed I learned that originally you wanted to be a dramatic actress.
┴: Yes, this is true. However, later I realized that this would be impossible for me. I should have played everything, so I gave it up and resigned.
And the vacant room of this ambition was filled in by singing?
┴: Exactly. But it took quite a lot of time. I also was an amateur actress.
Would it be possible for you as an amateur actress to play only what you wished?
┴: No. In the period when I wanted to be an amateur actress my fate did not allow me to meet good people. But later on I met such people. This is one of the reasons because of which I think that singing is my proper way of life. Since the time I started singing I have very good "meetings".
Is there any essential resemblance between singing and being an actress?
┴: Yes, there is a very essential resemblance: both are the art and ecstasy of being present.
Do you also play with KompMßnia?
┴: Yes, I do. it is very interesting. A few years ago I used to say that I have the soul of an actress. Nowadays I feel that my soul is different.
What are the main attributes of an actor's soul?
┴: Essentially it is a whore. Isn't it? I am speaking about the real actors, of course. I do not mean that for the hams.
What happened to you in the actors' school led by Mßria Gˇr Nagy?
┴: Imagine me as I am tacking in such a medium. In that school there were real "actor-nurslings": virgin souls without conscience, and life-experience. The really exciting personalities were Verebes and ╔va Schubert. I gratefully acknowledge that it was she who taught me to cry on the stage. We spoke some words together and simultaneously. It was torn out of me... Before this experience I got only cramps, I was under a continuous stifle... She gave me the first impulse to brake through this barrier without using my "bookmarks". I remember her glance as she transformed herself into an actress: she cried with an extended pupil and grasped me.
And following this experience you always succeeded in this transformation?
┴: No, not at all. No any successful case I can recapitulate. I failed even at my final examination performance. I was extremely drunken, I was almost unable to utter my text.
That is strange. You have already broken this barrier...
┴: Oh! If you already sniffed between the toes of the angels... It is quite different to return there again... It has to be learned. One has to start it again and again from the beginning.
Is this the same learning process as in the case of singing?
Once you said that what you have learned in this way you can forget it, too.
┴: Of course. Your talent can also be handed over like a present. You can lose it as well as the learned experiences can be forgotten. This is the true tragedy of being an actress or a singer. Your talents may leave you. Your experiences can vanish, and you may have to start to build them up from the beginning.
What do you mean when you say that your talents can be given away?
┴: I mean that you can give it away to your fate. You may execute some commando-action in an improper way and your bundle may be lost in a junction.
You also learned music, didn't you?
┴. I learned music in the primary school from year 3 to year 8. I also learned playing the piano and tonic solfa for three years. I started it with the aid of a private teacher, a kind old lady, it was very good. She was an old-fashioned, real lady. She wore beautiful clothes and costumes, she used some lipstick of a very low-key nuance, and her coiffure always was perfect. We made examinations. Once she told me that she was unable to give me more knowledge, she could not teach me more, so I should go to a music school to learn. It was very hard for me: ins such a school one is only one of the 85 pupils. You have to face with different points of reference (preceding this experience the only point of reference was my own performance), the world ceases to be magic and enchanting... One has to suffer the "teaching" of selected idiots called "teachers"... Women of the stature and the hands of an elephant pummeled the keys of the piano as well as my own hands saying that my posture was wrong... What I learned from my first teacher, the old lady, was completely wrong for them. She concentrated on the music, on the spirit of the music, while these gooseberries cared only the pure and mere technical aspects: the metronome, the posture of the fingers, the tonic solfa, etc.
You mentioned that you learned to sing in a different way due to the movie "Mirroring".
┴: Yes, it was a significant breakthrough. I learned the "genre of the songs of the sirens". This wording originates from two nice gentlemen serving the movie. No any experience they had regarding such kind of singing. They came from quite different fields. My singing enchanted them so they called it as the song of sirens.
What is the essence of this genre?
┴: They told me that it conveys them into the death, it pulls, seduces and entices them away to a new region, it keeps them in the gaol of the death, but later it brings them back to the life... And when it was recorded, the impressions were unbelievable. It happened in the lagoons of Venice and on the sea, on the board of an unsteady makeshift... I dedicated my song to the dying love. And this love was dying not only in the movie... It had its agony in the reality, too. In this moment I understood the real essence of Venice. As the walls of the town are slowly but surely "eaten" by the water...
what was the subject of your song? Was it Venice itself?
┴: I think that in that moment I instinctively approached the meaning of the death. I came closer to it than ever before.
By the way, while singing on the board of that unstable "vehicle", what were you thinking about? What did you feel?
┴: I was in a completely ecstatic state of mind.... It may have different reasons. First of all, this trip was the first one in my life. Preceding that I have never traveled in the world. The young people's typical period of travelling around e.g. in Paris with a rucksack accompanied by their lover is completely missing in my life. All the experience of such kind is completely missing for me. I always had so much stories that they completely chained me up to the soil. However, while being bound in the same time I also felt to fly to different parts of the world. I had to recollect myself from my own ruins and fragments... We have plenty of stories, very strong and shaking ones, these are exceptional moments in the time, when we can cross our own fate, and in which something very important happens. This thing then survives as a remembrance of a miracle or as a very strong memory. There are stories, too, which seem to be so improbable and irrealistic as if they haven't taken place at all. We cannot believe them ourselves. However, it also may happen that these irrealistic remembrances have some firm documentation. They are so incredible that they can even be miracles, can't they? We are fully penetrated with miracles.
Translated: dr. Jˇzsef Tar