One of the more memorable works performed at the inaugural Baltic Music Days in 2020 was Mundus Invisibilis by Latvian composer Anna Fišere (formerly Ķirse). That piece was concerned with fungal mycelium, and her earlier work Radices for 8 singers and electronics, composed in 2018, is similarly rooted in the growth of natural forms. Literally: the title translates as “roots”, and in addition to this the only other words used in the piece are “truncus” (trunk), “rami” (branches) and “folia” (leaves). Fišere’s inspiration came from the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and in fact Radices is an introduction to a much more ambitious work, Tree Opera. Windthrows, that was apparently premièred in the woods of northern Finland in mid-2019.
What i find so intoxicating about Radices is the way it can be heard as entirely naturalistic, and as such nothing whatever to do with humanity, or ritualistic, an elaborate human act of perhaps reverence and homage to the natural world. The words emerge as broken phonemes, articulated in a variety of ways, both energised and gentle; the electronics provide both the environment and its atmosphere, including tolling gongs and a layer of buzzing shimmer. Those gongs enhance the ritual aspect, as do the way the lower voices intone their words earlier on. The naturalistic perception comes from the way it seems we are listening in on a diverse, private nocturnal chorus from the natural world: weird, heightened noises that one imagines could be the greatly magnified, otherwise inaudible, sounds of plant life.
The voices by turns gibber, wail, moan, shout and, in the work’s central section, sing, unleashing a beautiful chord, rich and intense. It’s that same intensity that causes the chord to be unsustainable, breaking apart as individual notes protrude with more force, fracturing the homogeneity. It leads to a climactic sequence where the singers erupt in a loud torrent of alien vocal tics and word fragments, a huge release of energy that just as suddenly vanishes, concluding as whistles while the electronics softly die away as wind.
The world première of Radices was performed by the Latvian Radio choir conducted by Kaspars Putniņš, with Anna Fišere herself on electronics.