“What’s more important? The sound or the phenomenon?” rhetorically inquiries Iancu Dumitrescu. As a largely experiential method, his approach to sound is based on exchanges between tension and relaxation, sonic microstructures and monumental climaxes. We visited Iancu Dumitrescu's safe haven where hyperspectral music was born and talked about sonic archaeologies, paradoxes, and music as a shape shifting process.

Iancu Dumitrescu, born in 1944 in Sibiu, is an avant-garde composer, conductor, and musicologist. After studying composition in Bucharest, Dumitrescu met Sergiu Celibidache who introduced him to Husserlian phenomenology. In 1976, Dumitrescu founded the Hyperion Ensemble. With his late wife, Ana Maria Avram, he set up the Edition Modern record label in 1990. His oeuvre contains more than 300 works, including chamber music, electroacoustic, orchestral music, and computer music. 

Dumitrescu’s take on sound is grounded in a phenomenological approach, which is a valuable source not just of acquiring knowledge regarding social life, but also of composing and working with sound. This offers Dumitrescu the tools to extract the mysterious and the elusive components from the depths of sonic reverberations and further amplify them. With sound, he is capturing the forces of becoming, witnessing the process through which gusts of wind become bursts of clamour. 

“What’s more important? The sound or the phenomenon?” rhetorically inquiries Dumitrescu. As a largely experiential method, his approach to sound is based on exchanges between tension and relaxation, sonic microstructures and monumental variations, peaceful stillness and explosive climaxes, constant building up to pinnacles, followed by release and alleviation. Through phenomenology, Dumitrescu is exploring the essence of things (what it is) by engaging with the phenomenon (what it shows): the process through which sound turns into music, with the very essence of music being the truth of perception, rather than beauty or aesthetically pleasing outcomes. As he himself says in the interview, “The natural is not always aesthetically pleasing.”

Together with Carnation Studio, we visited Iancu Dumitrescu’s safe haven sheltered inbetween steep hills, somewhere north-east of Ploiești—the place where hyperspectral music was born, at his Bucharest apartment in Cotroceni, and during the rehearsals for the New Year’s Eve concert held at Kran in Bucharest. We spoke about the complexity of maintaining a vernacular stance in the age of uniformising globalisation and how this can be manifested sonically, the lost ethos of old Romanian music and Béla Bartók’s impact on studying music tradition, music as a dynamic shape shifting prospect, music as perception and experience rather than as object of pleasure that needs to be understood, the sonic vibrations of the cosmos, ultimately about paradoxes, sonic archaeologies, and speculation. The sense of time and place became blurred when Iancu Dumitrescu’s late wife, Ana Maria Avram, herself a prolific and talented composer, conducted the ensemble through a video projection.

At the Kran concert, the Hyperion International Ensemble was formed by:
Iancu Dumitrescu—composer/conductor
Diana Miron—violin
Albert Márkos, Andrei Kivu—cello
Shmil Frankel, Laurențiu Coțac—doublebass
Colin Hacklander, Bogdana Dima—percussion
Cătălin Matei—electronics

A film by Carnation Studio (Raya al Souliman & Horațiu Șovăială)
Sound by Laurențiu Coțac

This is the second episode out of a series of five videos, called “Mapping Grounds.” The series celebrates key Romanian cultural actors in the context of three decades since the fall of the communist regime. Watch the first episode with Romanian contemporary artist, Vlad Nancă, here.

Massive thanks to everyone involved in making this happen: Iancu Dumitrescu, Carnation Studio, Horațiu Șovăială, Raya Al Souliman, Laurențiu Coțac, Kran Bucharest, Andrei Crăciun, Paul Negoescu, Ana Drăghici, Alex Radu, and the Administration of the National Cultural Fund of Romania 

Cultural project co-funded by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund (AFCN). The project does not necessarily represent the position of the AFCN. The AFCN is not to be held responsible for the content of the project, nor for the ways in which the results of the project might be used. Those are entirely the responsibility of the beneficiary of the grant.