Vic Hoyland

Towards a Purer Abstraction


From the Abstraction of the sensitive to the purely intellectual


Text by Javier Armendáriz inspired by listening to In Transit

Already from the beginning, we can appreciate a compositional technique essentially based on intervals and a synthesis of the musical elements towards their most basic principles, from a harmonic, melodic, rhythmic and timbre point of view. This is very interesting, as it brings us to the great theme of pure abstraction, so present in 20th century art and also in music. Hoyland's music in this work takes us, "in transit", to that marvellous pure abstraction, and in his case, beyond the usual abstraction, which is the abstraction made from the sensitive. If we contemplate this principle of abstraction through the sensitive, we drift towards this abstraction, essense, by the concentration of the sensitive elements of music, such as harmony, melody, rhythm and timbre, in a kind of concentration or "trace" of the known. But Hoyland, in my opinion, goes further, towards a purely mental, intellectual abstraction.

Intervals, melodies, rhythms and even timbre are as it were subtracted from the sensitive to the purely intellectual. There is a reduction to the primal, more purely original elements of music. The little melodies in the trumpet, and intervallic little melodies, already present in Bruckner as a principle of compositional genesis, are here masterfully realised and directed towards a pure "essense". This "essense" or "abstraction" is achieved by Hoyland, in my opinion, through a "stripping" of the musical formants, synthesising them, not only to a "remainder" or "trace" of the traditional formants, but by stripping them of their sentimental, sensitive charge, and thus realising them more "intellectually", through intervallic concentrations, and thus take us to the essence of music as sound expression through the human mind. And this leads us to music as a mental abstraction, fuller than as a mere sentimental or sensitive experience.

There is also a "primitivism" in percussion, already present as a technique for compositional genesis in Stravinsky, but here, as we said before, it is taken towards a greater essense or abstraction. We can also observe that what I would call "intellectual melodies" are produced, something which I think is already beginning to occur in Beethoven and Bruckner, but which Hoyland takes further in its induction into pure abstraction.

From this whole technique, compositional genesis, there is a sort of "extinguishing of music", from the sensitive to the intellectual. An entry into emptiness, abandoning the sensitive and learned, to enter the world of the pure mind. It is like a tendency to "non-music", understanding this as an abandonment of the known of the musical experience and, taking flight, going into regions of pure abstraction, and thus, being able to enter into the mind of the creator, and to be able to live and rest there.

The moments of "tense calm" in the violins, the flute solo that reminds us of Bartok, tends to go beyond Bartok and go beyond Bartok and the known, to take us into his mind (Hoyland's mind). So do the beats, percussive touches and rhythm, lead us towards a pure intellectuality, a pure mentality, towards the door of the creator's mind. Thus, the sense of the work gives us "In Transit". "In transit" towards a pure intellectuality, mentality.

The little melodies, or melodic fragments of two or three notes, lead us to what we could call the "essential melodic element", and thus enter into a purer abstraction.

The melody of the oboe solo, near the end, gives us a "pure intellectual sadness", thus reinterpreting or recreating the "feeling", abstracting it more, stripping it of its sensitive garb, and give it to us more naked, more radical, more "mental" and thus, in my opinion, with greater "concentration". And after this, with the percussion, that kind of "ritual dance", with which we conclude the journey, the "transit". Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring come to mind, but here, as we have said in the core of this essay, it goes further. If already from Beethoven to Stravinsky we contemplate the "germ" of pure abstraction through the technique and compositional genesis of the formal elements of music, in Hoyland we have the opportunity to follow this wonderful journey and go "beyond". "In Transit","beyond", towards pure abstraction, towards that region that is beyond everything, beyond all that is felt and known, to be able to enter into the mind of a person, of a creator, in this way. To live and to know there in a fuller and thus finally rest and repose in the mind of this creator.

Javier Armendáriz, composer