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László Melis

László Melis

One of the most frequently employed writers of film and theatre music in Hungary in recent years, László Melis, having received official recognition and several prizes, now makes a debut with his own solo album. Both pieces appearing on the CD share the common characteristics of being based on archaic texts though using material from contemporary literature at the same time, and the music is a synthesis of Gregorian, early European polyphony and elements reminiscent of African ethno that nevertheless has a distinctive contemporary sound. The title piece, written for a percussion group and voice solos, was recorded with the well-known Amadinda Group.
 
“I may stand in the middle.
Maybe it is evening. Maybe dusk.
One thing is certain: it is getting late.”


János Pilinszky: The End


I gave a concert in Rome in the late 1980’s and I visited the Sistine Chapel that was under reconstruction at the time. The restoration of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment had not been completed, so one half of the fresco – the gloomy, dark half that appears so often in reproductions – looked threatening, while the cleaned part was bright, vivid and colorful. Maybe this unexpected sight raised the idea that the apocalypse should once be depicted from the angle of the Good. As Enoch puts it, the light will not stop shining for them till the ultimate end of time. No one can tell whether the last judgment will take place, although the fall of a culture – which is not an unprecedented phenomenon – equals a smaller apocalypse.
One may interpret Pilinszky’s line “One thing is certain: it is getting late” from this perspective as well.


Mulomedicina Chironis (Mule-therapy by Chiron) (1989)

The texts appearing in the piece are far removed from each other with respect to both their genre and the date of their birth: hardly any connection can be established between them.
The words of the title movement – an excerpt from a veterinary study describing certain sicknesses of mules and the therapies for them – were written in Greek. In the 4th century they were translated into Latin by Vegetius, who – in some parts – used the damaged colloquial Latin of the age.

The excerpt from the Mulomedicina Chironis is followed by two lines from Doctor Faustus by Marlowe – the scientist who has a pact with the devil is praying for time before being carried away. After this a literary legend is referred to, namely that before his death the sick Baudelaire could repeat but one thing: “Non, non cre nom non” (“No, for God’s sake, no”).
The piece is closed by the German translation of a Petri poem commemorating Hölderlin.
The structure of the movement translates into the language of music the typographic sight of lines starting closer and closer to the middle – a form so characteristic of the German poet.



The Apocalypse of Enoch (1997)

The spine of the cantata’s words is constituted by excerpts from an apocryphal writing from 200 BC attributed to the prophet Enoch (some say that some parts were written much earlier, what is more, the author claims that he is Enoch, the forefather known from the Book of Genesis, father of Methuselah). The relatively long piece consisting of several books is quite heterogeneous, but it does not only contain the apocalyptic visions known from the Book of Revelation – rather, the author describes the possibility of losing the totality and beauty of the genesis. The text was originally written in Hebrew or Aramean. We know about only one complete translation: in the Ethiopian sacral language. This is why the cantata was written in this language and also because of the attraction to African music, which has remained clear and powerful in places to this day.

The paragraphs selected from the Introductory Speech of Enoch are about the miracles of the created world. This text is the basis of the first, long, four-part Ethiopian movement.
The words of the next Ethiopian movement have been assembled from excerpts taken from different books: the most characteristic item of the five-part form enumerates the (traditionally acknowledged) names of the leaders of the fallen angels and is taken from the Book of Angels. The excerpt from the Book of the Messiah describes the punishment of the fallen angels and simultaneously gives an account of the damnation of all untrue people. The words of the first part of the last two-part Ethiopian movement is again from the Book of the Messiah: it depicts the last days through a serene picture and describes the glorification of the true.

Besides the Ethiopian texts, an excerpt from Pilinszky’s poem entitled Apocrypha and two passages from the book of the prophet Isaiah are also included. The last paragraph of Béla Hamvas’s Carneval – a prayer – closes the composition. The ascending tune is suddenly broken – leaving the whole piece open.

By being placed at the beginning and the end of the cantata, the texts of the two contemporary authors emphatically communicate the prophets’ warnings and their view of the world.

László Melis


Mulomedicina Chironis (Mule-therapy by Chiron)

2nd movement (2)

Kheironos tu Kentauru veteriniani de permixtis passionibus liber secundus explicit feliciter, incipit Liber tercius de mulomedicina.
In ventrem que oriuntur genera doloris, numero sunt tredecim: corpadsus ylion, ilimgon, enfragma, strofus, colidolor, lubricorum et vermium et tiniolarum et vesice vicia numero quatour id est canculosum, iscuria, dissuria, stranguiria. Facit causam doloris cordapsus quod appellatur. Quibus contingit ex nimia tensione stercoris aquam per nos refundere, cibum, stercus. Iumenta volutat et genibus exporrectis calcitrant, id ipsum quasi excludere possint, quod cum magis in eis ventus maior nutritur, quod magis plus sagittatur fuerit spiritus, qui per duplicationem crementi magis in novissinnum maior fit hac ipsa racione iumenta volutando tympana similiter fiunt. Est autrem hec valitudo periculosa.
Cui tamen si celerius succurratur, ex hac racione liberari possunt. Piperis grana numero quinquaginta petrosillini quantum quator digiti possunt capere, cimini Alexandrini tantundem cum cumico Afri, argivi semen, murra,nepita, trisaginem equis ponderibus in quo admiscebis nitrum ad dimidiam omnium eorum partem.
Hec omnia bene trita, ex vino calido et oleo tantundem equi et mellis quod satis fuerit, hanc pocionem dabis; quere omnem spurcician humoris intus obstrantem abstrahit et ad sanitatem perducit.
Kheironos tu Kentauru veteriniani de permixtis passionibus liber tercitus explicit feliciter.


This is the happy end of the second volume of Kheiron Centaur, the veterinarian, written about the different diseases. Here starts the third volume about the mule-therapy.
The number of pains generated in the belly is 13; cordapsus, ylion, ilimgom, enfragma, colic, colitis, having worms and worminess, and a malady caused by small intestinal parasites, and according to number four bladder complaint: cystolithiasis, anuria, dysuria, strangury.
The pain can be caused by the so-called cordapsus. This takes place as the consequence overpressure of the faecal matter, when the water, the food, and the faecal cannot flow onward.
The animal grovels and flings about with stretched knees to try to let out the gas from itself; and the more wind accumulates in it the more ragged its breathing will be. For the accumulation of the faecal matter, at last the wallowing animal becomes inflated like a kettledrum. And this is a dangerous disease.
If you try hard you can relieve it of the trouble as follows: prepare fifty grains of pepper, as much parsley as can be picked up by four fingers, the same amount of Alexandrian fennel with African fennel, seeds of argivi, myrrh, catnip, germander in equal portions and mix to it half amount of salpetre. You have to pulverize all that, mix with the same amount of wine and oil (in equal portions), and as much honey that is enough, and make the animal drink all of the potion.
This thing will purge the filthy fluid which causes the obstruction and cures the animal.
This is the happy end of the third volume of the book of Kheiron Centaur written about different diseases.


3rd movement (3)

O lente, lente currite noctis equi O slowly, slowly run steeds of night
(Christopher Marlowe)


4th movement (4)

Non, non cre nom non No, for God’s sake, no
(Charles Baudelaire)


5th movement (5)

György Petri: Hölderlin paraphrase

Hab’ Durst bin blind
Der kommende
hierher eindringende
Windwüstenstaub
verstopft mir Mund
und Auge Im Diesseits
wirst du nie
mein Trank meine Helligkeit




György Petri: Hölderlin paraphrase

I’m thirsty, I go blind
The wind released from the
dusty desert of future
fills up my eyes
my mouth You cannot be
in this world my drink
my light

(German translation: András Forgách and György Petri)


The Apocalypse of Enoch

2nd movement (7)

Everything will be forsaken then

The silence of the heavens will be set apart
and forever apart
the broken-down fields of the finished world,
and apart the silence of dog-kennels.
In the air a fleeing host of birds.
And we shall see the rising sun
dumb as a demented eye-pupil
and calm as a watching beast.

(Extract from the poem Apocrypha by János Pilinszky translated by Ted Hughes)


3rd movement (8,9,10,11)

a) Examine all the activities which take place in the sky and how they do not alter their ways, the luminaries of heaven, how each one of them rises and sets, each one is systematic according to its respective season, and they do not divert from their appointed order.

b) And look at the earth and turn in your mind concerning the action which is taking place in her from the beginning to the end: how all the work of God as being manifested does not change.

c) And behold the summer and the winter, how the whole earth is filled with water and clouds and dew; and he causes rain to rest upon her.

d) And again, examine the days of the summer, how (the heat of) the sun is upon (the earth) and dominates her. And as for you, you will crave shade and shelter on account of the heat of the sun...
Observe how the verdant trees are covered with leaves and they bear fruit. Pay attention concerning all things and know in what manner he fashioned them. All of them belong to him who lives forever.

(Excerpts from The Apocalypse of Enoch: 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 4.1, 5.1)


4th movement (12)

The hunter’s scare, the pit, and the trap
threaten all who dwell in the land

The earth reels to and fro like a drunken man
and sways like a watchman’s shelter

If a man runs from the rattle of the scare
he will fall into the pit;
if he climbs out of the pit
he will be caught in the trap.
When the windows of heaven above are opened
and earth’s foundations shake

(Excerpts from the Book of Isaiah 24. 17-20)


5th movement (13)

Therefore, you shall curse your days, and the years of your life shall perish and multiply in eternal execration, and there will not be any mercy unto you.

Semyaz, Rame’el, Tam’el, Ram’el, Dan’el, Ezeqel, Baraqyal, As’el, Armaros, Batar’el, Anan’el, Zaqe’el, Sasomaspe’el, Kestar’el, Tur’el, Yamayol, Arazyal.

The faces of the strong will be slapped and be filled with shame and gloom. Their dwelling places and their beds will be worms. They shall have no hope to rise from their beds...

Semyaz, Rame’el, Tam’el...

(Excerpts from The Apocalypse of Enoch: 5.5, 6.7, 46.6)


6th movement (14)

On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven in heaven,
and on earth the kings of the earth,
herded together, close packed like prisoners in dungeon;
The moon shall grow pale and the sun hide its face in shame;
and shows his glory before their elders.
On that day…

(Excerpts from the Book of Isaiah 24. 21-23)


7/a movement (15)

In those days, mountains shall dance like rams, and the hills shall leap like lambs satiated with milk. And the faces of all the angels in heaven shall glow with joy...


7/b movement (15)

There shall be a light that has no end, and they shall not have to count days (anymore).
For already darkness has been destroyed, light shall be permanent before the Lord of the Spirits...

(Excerpts from The Apocalypse of Enoch: 51.4, 58.6)


8th movement (16)

Hell is bottomless. Insanity has no twilight, because it’s night. Each minute is wasted unless it is spent lamenting. Apologetically, they keep shouting “It wasn’t me, no, not me”. Then who was it?

Now there is one thing I know: that it is time for us to get prepared. The moment of awakening is approaching. War. Maybe. Maybe revolution, or procession, or penitence. Maybe a ball, but more likely, famine. Maybe a feast, or rather a holocaust, as everybody anticipates it.

Prepare for the wondrous awakening. I wish I were there, to reach out at least towards the gate. To cast at least one glance, just one glance…

(Béla Hamvas: Carnival – excerpts)

Excerpts from The Apocalypse of Enoch are translated by Ephraim Isaac, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Volume 1 (Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments) Pages 5-89
© 1983 James H. Charlesworth; Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York


László Melis was born in 1953 in Budapest. He studied the violin at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music. A founding member of Group 180, which was formed in 1978 and gave contemporary music concerts in various concert halls all over Europe until it broke up in 1990. Melis wrote five pieces for the group, all of which were recorded; during this time he played with several musicians (Louis Andriessen, Steve Reich, Terry Riley) who have had a determining influence on the music of today.
After the breakup of Group 180, his time has primarily been spent composing: he has written two chamber operas: The Empire of the Smile and The Death of Kleist.
He has written several cantatas, songs for full orchestra, ballet music and ballet cantatas (Songs of Pearl), pieces for chamber orchestra and solo instruments (Black & White), and most recently a series of movements for a vocal sextett and percussion (Of Time and the River), as well as a four-movement piece for the Budapest Cello Group (Cello Mania).
He has also composed the music of several dozen feature films, several hundred theatrical performances and radio plays.


List of works

Etude for Three Mirrors (1980)
Ceremony (1981)
The Room (1982)
Songs of Maldoror (1984)
The Empire of the Smile (1985)
Mulomedicina Chironis (Mule-therapy by Chiron) (1989)
Songs of Pearl (1994)
The Death of Kleist (1994)
Exhibition of Man (1995)
The Apocalypse of Enoch (1997)
Iphigenia in Aulis (1998)
Black & White (1999)
Of Time and the River (2000)
Cello Mania (2000)

Website of the artist:

www.songs.hu/laszlomelis

Artist's Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/MelisLaszlo

László Melis - Henoch Apokalipszise

László Melis
Henoch Apokalipszise
BMC Records
2000

Classical Music

László Melis - Black & White - Zongoraszvit

László Melis
Black & White - Zongoraszvit
BMC Records
2008

Classical Music