January 14th, 2021 – 20:00 CET | Concert III (Posadas I)

Alberto POSADAS (Valladolid, 1967)
National Music Prize (Spain, 2011)

Knossos (2016) (first quartet of the Poética del Laberinto cycle)

Presentation by Alberto Posadas and Andrés Gomis (SIGMA Project soloist)

Concert: Knossos (2016) (Poética del Laberinto cycle)

Conversation between Sylvain Cadars (IRCAM) and Alberto Chaves

Musical tipClosure in series. Alberto Chaves (SIGMA Project soloist)

KNOSSOS (2016) for saxophone quartet 
Work commissioned by Ernst Von Siemens Foundation, Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical-CNDM, Sociedad Filarmónica de Badajoz and SIGMA Project.
World premiere 5/X/2016, VIII Ciclo de Música Actual (Badajoz)

Knossos, first quartet of the series “Poética del Laberinto”. Alberto Posadas composed the Poética del Laberinto series between 2016 and 2017, as a commission for SIGMA Project, with funding from the Ernst Von Siemens Foundation, CNDM, Badajoz Philharmonic Society and the SIGMA Project quartet itself.

This series is made up of three works for saxophone quartets: the first one is Knossos, premiered in October 2016 at the VIII Ciclo de Música Actual of Badajoz. The second quartet is entitled Klimmen en Dalen and, the third one, Senderos que se bifurcan.

In 2020, SIGMA Project published the CD with the recording of this cycle, released by the WERGO label and presented at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid.

The labyrinth is an essential part of our social imaginary. It is not only cultural heritage that we have received but also the root of our thinking. Since time immemorial, the power of seduction of the labyrinth has turned it into a symbol, an archetype and a myth. The idea of an intricate space which we must cross to find something, someone or simply the way out was a comparison with life itself. This was strongly connected with a rite of passage, a religious background that caused a longing for a future salvation or an exercise of power that turned the labyrinth in a sort of life imprisonment for those who did not subdue.

This is the labyrinths’ context from the classical antiquity to the Renaissance. And in this context, the labyrinth is, first and foremost, a mythical object. Afterwards, this mythical object became a recreational object, due to a concept that could be linked to a proto-postmodern approach of descontextualization and loss of meaning. This is the case of the British garden mazes or the Gardens of Versailles.

However, what might be the most essential transformation of the concept of the labyrinth took place in the 20th century, the moment when the mythical object became a poetic subject. This transformation is echoed in the idea of Borges’ labyrinth, even more strongly in Cortázar, or in Escher as a creator of impossible spaces that do have neither a beginning nor an end.

The poetics of the labyrinth (Poética del laberinto in Spanish), which turns it into a subject, lies in that there is no Minotaur anymore. The raison d’être of the labyrinth concerns the mental process under construction and not the itinerary that leads to the discovery of something, someone or simply the way out. The Minotaur does not exist. The labyrinth endures over time, perpetuated by the need to cross it.

The seduction of the labyrinth, which has led me to compose this cycle of quartets, comes from the confluence of what is finite and what is infinite. We are in an enclosed space of numerous possibilities – a space that could be endlessly crossed and that only exists as long as it is crossed. The labyrinth is created while it is being crossed. This is strongly linked to the process of artistic creation, both for the composer that writes the music and the listener that “composes” their own listening process.

Above all, the labyrinth is a search and it is only created when the need for searching is stronger than the expectation of finding. In this regard, the artistic creation is a process that resembles a labyrinth.

The poetics of the labyrinth is the poetics of getting lost, of losing the sense of direction without losing the reference of its existence. It is the poetics of the exile, of the deepening and of leaving safety behind.

This cycle of quartets for saxophone is conceived as an extension of the concept of micro-instrumentation from the instrument’s individuality to the field of chamber music. However, the micro-instrumentation does not just involve the research on the saxophone’s resources at a microscopic scale. It is, at the same time, a way to obtain musical material that is able to create a grammar. And this grammar builds numerous relationships in this music ensemble, which already has a strong modular character by itself. This character expands from a quartet where all the instruments are equal to the classical quartet, characterized by the diversity in the use of the saxophones. The cycle Poética del laberinto is presented as an extension from the instrumental uniformity in the high register to the diversification that gradually converges in the lower register.

The three quartets have been composed to be complimentary, but they can also work as independent pieces. This way, each work is based in specific materials, while at the same time some common aspects are maintained in order to create traces in the memory throughout the cycle.

The space in Poética del laberinto is considered to be a very important parameter, in the sense that it is used as the means of articulation to achieve uniformity and homogeneity. On the one hand, the space is understood as a vertical distribution of heights, register, and an acoustic entity of numerous possibilities. On the other hand, it is a three-dimensional medium where the sound is propagated.

Each of the quartets is a tribute to one of the most iconic labyrinths of our culture.

The origin of the title of this first quartet lies in the name of the most important city in Crete during the Minoan period. According to the tradition, the Cretan Labyrinth created by Daedalus to hold the Minotaur is located in Knossos. In the 19th century, a palace of great complexity was discovered there and it was considered to be the origin of the mythological legend. Nevertheless, it has not been possible to completely prove this claim.

This quartet presents an itinerary through microscopic levels of the instrument. The use of microintervals originates from a slight transformation of the saxophone’s traditional fingerings, which, in turn, adds a modification of the timbre. This opens almost endless possibilities for the tuning. It recalls the idea of the labyrinth as an enclosed space of numerous possibilities.

The work presents, just as the labyrinths, a self-referential world. In this case, it is the result of an extremely idiomatic writing and of the similarity between its elements.

Knossos aims to suggest a poetics of getting lost without losing the referential framework, where it is the listener who creates their own labyrinthine listening process.

Alberto Posadas
Paris, 6 May 2017

Next concert: Alberto Posadas (II)