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Commencement of the Tide

Erika Ozsda

"If I prepare for the meeting with the Audience, it everywhere has its strength. I know everything of my fate in advance. I do not think to be a seer or a witch. I rather mean that all this information is present in my viscera, and my voice simply conveys and transmits it to those who are willing to listen to my singing."
Ágens, the singer

By what time do you expect to find a proper name for the style of your singing?

ÁGENS: I already found a name: "contemporary manifestation". (Please, do not look at me in such a way!) This name mirrors my relations. The term "contemporary opera" was rather forced on me. Eventually I accepted it in the lack of alternative possibilities. However, whenever I have to face with a real,... a canonized master of the contemporary opera (please, use this word in the report, it is really exact), this term immediately becomes improper for me. In this comparison my style really is not a "contemporary opera". For instant, the management of Art Hall sent Mr. Kurtág an invitation to my concert. I am really interested in and afraid of the impressions of a real grand master of contemporary opera.

Are you an expert of opera?

I do not have too widespread experiences. Whenever possible, people make me remember this fact. I mainly read books and also like movies. However, I had several possibilities for meeting professional opera singers. One of them seriously protested against comparing my singing to the opera. The main fact, which may hinder finding a proper name, is the complex nature of my appearances. They are constructed of various elements. First of all, I use the whole classic scale ... this is a kind of ability, is not it? Furthermore, I also use the technique of gutturals and falsettos, which I also deem to be a kind of skill. Though it can be learnt, too, it has to come in an elementary way. I could cite ample examples of singers who also use these techniques in Hungary. However, I am afraid, it would be against the requirement of decent behavior. The third component is the realization of the shamanic system I revealed and experienced in my own life, too. In spite of these experiences I do not think to be neither a shaman, nor a magician, because I do not practice this knowledge. For such a practice it is not satisfactory to realize the relations and learn a certain knowledge. This knowledge should be practiced continuously. I very well know the relations, I know the operation of the systems and ranges of voices, however, I am not so sure in their proper application as a shaman should be. What I am and I do is a compound of several sound-scales and relations. Therefore, I am always found to be similar to somebody. For instant, sometimes I used to be compared with Meredith Monk, whose art I do not prefer due to its "structuralism", or with Diamanda Galas, whom I like, though not so much I like her in the last years. Iva Bittova, the new star, recently gave a concert I listened to, too. In strange way I have never been compared to her, though I feel many similarities between us. However, she is rather an earthly woman, a brilliant player blessed with beautiful voice. To all appearances, from an external point of view, I have something like a "diva-character". This is even more proper from an "internal", psychological point of view. Otherwise, it is very easy to get tired of always being constrained to give compulsory explanations and comments to one's artistic activity. Sometimes I think that I should stop singing. I understand that it is very difficult to criticize me. Some sentences concerning my activity already were published, mainly only at the level of some punch-lines. Normally only the bare facts are mentioned in the critics: the location where I appeared, my actions on the stage, and the name of my partners in the appearances. Into this matrix of "mere facts", sometimes certain observations concerning my character are woven, and that is all. It is far easier to make an interview with me. In this case I can speak about different things according to a system existing in me. This raw material can be knocked together later and it can be published as an interview.

?!? Hmm...

Nobody takes the responsibility and the burden of giving a proper analysis and definition of my artistic activity. Due to some obscure reason no one wishes to "carry the can" for it. However, in the "És" Zoltán Végső1 published a review on me, in which he wrote about a peculiar system. Péter Balassa2 (wrote about the "games of the time" in connection with me. Furthermore, János Háy3 published a critique on me in an appraising tone, I like it very much.

Do you agree with the opinion of these reviewers?

A agree with the approach by Péter Balassa, that is all my singing refers to the play of the universe of time. Zoltán Végső concentrated on the system of relations laying in the subconscious, on the manifestation of schizophrenia, and the mental duality of the conscious being at the end of the 20th century. Both of them realized the ethereal relations, and the manifestations of the earthly and the celestial. Some little knowledge concerning the Heaven is blended with that concerning the Earth. This also is interesting from another aspect: Ádám Horgas, director of Theatre Atlantis asked me for playing the role of a fallen angel. This may not happened by chance. This angel who fell down from the heavenly life, cannot, and is not allowed to return to the celestial regions. He can see the life and the fate of mankind, but he is not able to help them without the energy of my living singing performed on the stage. This angel floats between the worldly and the celestial.

There are people who do not like your art. What is the reason for this reluctance?

Some people say that all this can be done even by a child, too. They do not know the real value of such a praise. They also forget that by the time of their growing up they forget these relations and dependencies. There are others who say that such a style or genre even does not exist, and strongly protest against it. The members of another typical group simply say nothing, only stare at me in a strange manner. It also happened that I was not able to understand their conduct towards me in common, everyday situations. Later I realized that they already know what I do in the stage, and simply this is the reason. It also frequently happens that my concerts generate strong repulsive feeling against me. Normally it crops up later, that during the concerts they are pushed into such elementary emotional state which cannot be confessed or undertaken in every situation. Of course, I cannot expect them to take it on, myself I cannot do it every day. It may happen only in special, dedicated moments. For instance, at this very moment I would not be able to sing. For a concert I have to prepare myself for long months. If no satisfactory time is available, or I am not able to concentrate, my efforts arrive at a dead end. In this case the events happening on the stage may be quite different to those which should have taken place. For instance, on one of my concerts I announced that now some jazz would come, of course, in my particular style. As an effect, certain jazz musicians initiated harsh protection, and some of them started crying to me that what I do is not a "jazz music" at all. "Oh, it surely is a jazz, in my special style" I answered. After the concert they came to me and assured, that eventually they like what I do, but also asked me for no more identifying it as "jazz". By the way, in this case what kind of expression or word could I use?

What kind of audience can appreciate your appearances?

Mainly those people who are occupied with serious music. And those, too, who were interested in the appearances, say, by Maria Callas. She simply appeared at the stage and generated -as I used to call it- a flow transmitting and conveying many things. It is generally held that she did not have a really good voice. She had problems with the "C" in the highest human register, she suffered during singing, but all of this have no significance. The really important fact is that her voice perfectly conveyed the tragedy. She was able to irradiate such a strength to which only very rare counterparts can be compared. This is a great gift. Would this be the essence of the real talent? Besides her voice, many other traces were imprinted into the soul of her audience. This is what I call "the tide". And I think that some "tide" exists in me, too. Whenever it is started, the proper events also happen. There are people who say that during my singing they see pictures, they simply visualize my "songs".

I think that each picture is different to the others and they depend on the personality of the listener...

No, not at all! The "songs" invoke or give raise to very similar situations. Though we may think anything, people are connected to each other at a certain level. On this basis I think that the invoked feelings must be similar to each other, too. I believe that the experiences also are similar. If something happens, it must seem to be of the same kind for everybody, since each of them exists in the same space and time. Those, who are really "present" at the concerts also are in a resonance . But those, who are not really present -e.g. some repulsion may keep them away from the concert-, may think about quite different things. But this resonance is a common phenomenon in the conventional theatre, too: we breath together with the actors. Or at least we think so. I can also refer to Tarkovsky's films. He is my mania. Whenever he has silence in the space of the film, this silence moves into our internal space or soul, too.

What kind of space is needed for your "songs"?

My songs have their full strength in spaces created by fine arts. However, I can work well in different spaces, too. In a good space the elementary strength of the songs cannot be degraded to the level of the jokes of some clown or transformed into mere curiosity. I already experienced strange situations, too, in which everything had its effect, but, just at the level of an exotic animal. One time I sang in a cave of a caveman, at a camp-fire, for an audience consisting of about 20 persons. It was very good. It sounded like in a concert hall.

Your first CD was entitled "Ágens", the second one was called "Of Heaven of Earth". What is the main difference between them?

The first one is a "Maxi" CD containing 7 pieces, mainly without any musical accompaniment. In it I used only my own effects, that is "a capella" I reflected myself by an other part. This CD was made for a performance at the "Víg-Theatre" ("The crucible" by Arthur Miller). It was not an elementary performance, this is a fact known by everybody. However, if they had used me properly, my effects would have kicked the performance out of this level. Of course, I know, that five times three minutes in a two hours long performance has quite different effect than listening to all the songs of the CD. In spite of that, the songs had considerable effects in the performance. At the end of the CD called "Ágens" there is a piece accompanied with music. This generated general surprise, but I insisted on it. This intentionally anticipated the next CD containing songs with music, too. Chronologically the content of the second CD was completed earlier. Therefore, the second one pertains to 1994, while the first was elaborated in 1997-98. In connection with these CDs I'd like to tell -mainly this is valid for the second one, the "Celestial-Earthly"-, that for me they already lost their actuality. The situation more or less is similar to the case of a fiction writer, whose fiction is issued 10 years after its completion. This CD should have been issued 5 years earlier, but in those times it was impossible to realize that. Of course, I assume full responsibility for their content even now, but by the time being I already surpassed them.

Do you consider your performances in theatres and movies to be the consequences of your songs?

Yes, I think so. Somewhere the directors see me, and after this they feel like to work with me. This can be understood like someone's getting like to have a nice piece of apple: "Oh, it would be nice to have it....". However, during the phase of the actual work I usually become less "charming". It crops up soon, that I have my own ideas on which I strongly insist, therefore I am not a partner with whom one can work together in a convenient way. A typical example for this is the movie entitled "Mirroring" in which I started to work in the leading role, and finished it in a secondary one.

Did you pushe down yourself on your own strength?

Yes, I think so. In the other works I never experienced similar problem. I like very much to work in "Theatre Atlantis" lead by Ádám Horgas. I also was very glad during the work in the "Víg-Theatre". It is a crazy feeling to hear my own voice in such a big space. It also was very good to realize that those actors who are active for 15-20 years, received me into their community!! They did it in spite of the fact that we have quite different philosophy and ideas regarding the artistic communication systems... I was accepted and had a great success between them. Besides this I'd like to mention the movie by György Szomjas ("With Kisses and Nails"). I have fully good impressions on the shooting. I definitely felt some waves of love spreading around. The cameraman, Ferenc Grunwalsky, was especially kind to the actors working before his camera. He manages everybody to show his/her best. I also got a role in the movie by András Szőke ("The Lemon Pig"). However, in it I was "only" an actress, I did not sing any song in this film.

How many portion of "contemporary opera" and "shaman" remains in you after leaving the stage?

For me, leaving the stage is a crazy state of mind. I cannot even realize my "real" situation. I receive several business cards, get different advices to call X and Y by phone, etc., but simply I cannot remember these talks. I need some time to recall these events. Even in the next morning the "air" of the concert till fills my mind up. It normally leaves me only in the afternoon. For becoming able to sing I have to experience the real relations and situations. Without having some counterpoint my activity would be dangerous for me. I could not keep the balance. Even two seconds are enough for me to dive into the realm of the concerts. However, much more time I need for the return. It is very difficult.

What is the reason for your undertaking appearance in the "Petőfi Hall"?

Because it was György Szomjas who invited me to the rock festival "Gangsters' Movie". I worried very much in the circle of the "professional" rockers and folk-musicians active on their field for 25 years. I was absolutely unknown in this sphere, not to speak of their audience.... My appearance followed Hobo's and Lóránt Schuster's psong entitled "Sink down to the level of dogs, become the king of the dogs! "... After such a song I was introduced as a "contemporary opera singer". It was terrible...

Could you tell me some words about the reaction of the Audience?

They were deeply struck. I was sure in the failure in advance. However, I was determined and decided not to capitulate. As I touched deeper and deeper regions of soul the silence around me became deeper and deeper, too. I simultaneously heard my song and their silence.

Did you expect/prepare for any call from outside?

No, I did not. In the circles I normally used to sing no such call might occur. However, in that place it happened: someone advised me to go home. I gave him an apt answer, I think. Later somebody cried "You are good, but we don't know what you are doing on the stage". At the end of the concert I got a great ovation. The musicians embraced and kissed me. Of course, as is well known, this does not have any significance, neither working in a movie, nor issuing a CD has any meaning from this point of view.

What is the eventual point of reference that you can accept?

Myself, my own feeling: what is good for me.

You already sang together with Gyula Deák Bill4. How did you feel during it?

It was very interesting. On the stage we had a common language. Something happened on the stage, both of us felt it quite clearly. We strongly depended on each other. However, I think that my depending on him was the stronger, not to speak of my dependence on his audience...

Did you have some improvisation?

Yes. Especially the rehearse was very successful, some "very strong" was brought about. Each of us liked it, especially me. For me, during the appearances, this is the only important factor. Following this holding more rehearses were proposed, but I refused to repeat. It happened once, and I was sure that it may happen again with a quite considerable probability. Let us try it. I always cope with great risks on the stage.

What happens to you when you fail?

Simply I fail. I already experienced the failure. My debut was a great success, I was able to promptly irradiate my feelings. The second one was a failure. I felt to be in a vacuum in which I cannot generate impressions. It is not impossible to prepare for avoiding such cases.

When have you realized your need for singing in this way?

I worked together with my mate, Ferenc Boudny, who also is my composer. He played the guitar and I sang. From the very beginning I sounded such voices. I found the situation terrible: I generated a tide which I did not understand myself. No other output was possible for me. I made several attempts to learn singing at different teachers. Each of them had his own proposal regarding what should be sung with such a voice. However, I would not be able to take these advices.

How did you realize it in the secondary school?

At that time it did not work, therefore I didn't realize it. I always felt a strong wish for manifestation and expressing myself, I have a soul of an actress. In spite of not being an actress I conducted the life of an actress , and also had similar mentality. I fully lived each moment of my life. I almost died of the roles in the fictions... I sweat when I read poems... One should not have a soul of an actress. I bless my fortune that I was able to come out of this state.

To what extent could your songs be changed by bearing a child?

I think that it could help me to a great extent. Now I should like to bear a child, though one year ago I said that I was not prepared for it. But one year in my life seems to be comparable with 15 years of other people. In each year I live so much stories that now I feel to be 183 years old. Now I feel equally strong wish for having a child and for singing. I shouldn't like to become a miserable, lonely being. The child is the most important mate.

What could make you think that you already reached the apex of your career, and that you should finish singing?

For this I should sing something for the reproduction of which I no more would be able. At that point I'll stop it, I swear. Though sometimes I already said that I'll stop it, actually I did not. I always feel something to tell. But if I could sing something which cannot be excelled, I should stop it. Of course, only if this song would be recorded for my children and grand children: "Listen to this, my grandson, this was the talent of your grandmother". If I will not be able to complete what I feel I have to complete, I shall be seen on the stage even in my sixties, too. However, it would be strange enough...

Do you use some scores for recording your songs?

No, they have no any scores: their great majority is improvisation. However, I have a graphic chart, full by disgust bullets and dumplings, by the use of which the songs can be reproduced by me. This is a very special chart, as far as its graphical aspects are concerned. Experts of theory of music used to say that this system lacks any tonality, and that I distinguish between differences less than a half note.

What makes you appear on the stage?

The conviction that I have to make my story. It is quite fantastic that when I start singing I exactly feel that I am in it: I am present exactly in the story in which I have to be. This is the maximum possible magnificence for me. If I am out of it, it is nothing else but a kind of suffering. Suffering for me, and pain for the audience, too, because what is happening is different to that what really should happen.

How can you "bring yourself" into this state?

This is the question for me, too!

Translated: dr. József Tar

1 critical
2 aesthete
3 writer
4 a famous hungarian blues singer