Chaya Czernowin


mode 117

Shu Hai Practices Javelin



mode 117 Chaya CZERNOWIN, Vol. 2: Shu Hai in an Orchestral Setting for voice, orchestra and live electronics; Shu Hai Practices the Javelin for solo female voice, 9 recorded voices & live electronics (Ute Wassermann, voice; Basel Sinfonietta/Johanness Kalitzke, conductor); Six Miniatures and a Simultaneous Song (Elision Ensemble).

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Shu Hai Practices Javelin

Music to texts by Zohar Eitan

1.  Six miniatures and a simultaneous song  (1998)   (11:30)
ELISION ensemble.  Simon Hewett, conductor
Trio:  Deborah Kayser, soprano.  Erkki Veltheimalto, viola.
Geoffrey Morris, guitar.
Quartet:  Paula Rae, bass-flute.  Brian Catchlove, bass-clarinet.   Timothy O’Dwyer, alto saxophone.  John Tooby, cello.

Download the MP3 sample (2.3MB)
Shu Hai in an orchestral setting  (2000-01)
for voice, nine recorded versions of the same voice on tape, orchestra and live electronics
2. First orchestral entrance (4:57)
3. First vocal entrance (5:59)
4. Second orchestral entrance (4:41)
5. Second vocal entrance (13:59)Ute Wassermann, voice (live and recorded)
Basel Sinfonietta.  Johannes Kalitzke, conductor
Live electronics: Experimental Studio of Heinrich Strobel Stiftung SWR.
André Richard, director

Download the MP3 sample (2.7MB)
Shu Hai mitamen behatalat kidon  (1996-97)
for solo female voice, nine versions of the same voice on tape, and live electronics
6. First Movement (13:12)
7. Second Movement (18:25)Ute Wassermann, voice
Live electronics: Experimental Studio of Heinrich Strobel Stiftung SWR.
André Richard, director

Download the MP3 sample (1.7MB)


While each of the pieces on this CD is independent, the two later pieces also reference elements of the 1997 piece Shu Hai mitamen behatalat kidon.

Shu Hai Mitamen Behatalat Kidon (Shu Hai practices javelin) (1996-97)
for solo female voice, nine versions of the same voice on tape, and live electronics in two movements.


This is an attempt at creating a musical form that could be best described as distilled, non-linear poetry. The piece is written for the singer-vocalist Ute Wassermann, and is especially tailored to – and is inspired by – her multi-dimensional voice and vocal expression which was developed through her involvement with improvisation.


In Shu Hai, a field of vocal behaviors is created – on the one hand, the voice is unrefined and close to an uncensored raw physical expression of emotions; but yet, the voice is forced into extremely controlled, almost unnaturally short temporal formal segments of wild emotional expression. The tension and the friction created by the wildness of the material and its relationship to the controlled, tight form, inform and mold the piece.


Six miniatures and a simultaneous song (1998)
for a trio of guitar, viola & guitar, and a quartet of bass flute, bass clarinet, alto saxophone and cello.

Two very different pieces unfold as a counterpoint to each other, merging into a strange third piece. The trio is fragile, very continuous, refined and highly articulated. The quartet is abrupt, boisterous, at times grotesquely expressive. Together they emerge into a lopsided structure where their different weights, expressions, and dynamism interact. The piece is dedicated to Elision Ensemble, one of Australia’s top new music ensembles.

Shu Hai in orchestral setting (2000-01)
for voice, nine recorded versions of the same voice, orchestra and live electronics.

This piece uses the second movement of the vocal piece Shu Hai and brings it into a dialogue with new orchestral material. The very fragile, intimate poetic fabric of the original Shu Hai is juxtaposed with raw, unruly bouts of the orchestral material – the voice is split into an orchestra of internal voices, the orchestra is unified into a magnified “voice”. This voice is a huge and a heavy physical presence, pushing, lifting – a relentless gesture on the still background of the large panels of Shu Hai practices Javelin.

Chaya Czernowin was born in Israel and has resided in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Various scholarships and prizes supported these years, in which she was able to concentrate on forming her musical language and thought. In 2000 her opera, PNIMA…ins innere was premiered at the Munich Biennale to a strong acclaim, winning the Bayerische Theater Preis 2000. Upcoming commissions and premieres include the Donaueschingen Festival (2002), the Ensemble Intercontemporain with IRCAM technology (Paris, 2003), and an opera for Salzburg Festival (2004). She is currently on the faculty of the University of California in San Diego.


Chaya Czernowin
Shu Hai Practices Javelin
Mode 117

I don’t know what Czernowin’s music is about. Fascinating and joyously impenetrable, her compositions will leave you spellbound. Play ’em loudly, you’ll be stunned. These three pieces are so involved that listening to them repeatedly is like hearing a different work each time. Czernowin’s music can be self-referential. Whole chunks of one composition may be transformed into another. The Six Miniatures are a trio and quartet played concurrently. Cage and Carter have employed similar but less intricate effects. The trio is soprano (Deborah Kayser), viola (Erkki Veltheimalto) and guitar (Geoffrey Morris). This delicate ensemble heroically attempts to underscore a single line of text: “I believe that beyond these bushes I could bathe in warm cisterns.” The quartet of bass flute (Paula Rae), bass clarinet (Brian Catchlove), alto sax (Timothy O’Dwyer) and cello (John Tooby) is rudely inconsiderate. Slithering microtones, coarse glissandi, and truckloads of extended technique create a continuously disconcerting landscape.

The Shu Hai pieces make Six Miniatures look conventional. Both versions require a live voice, nine tape recordings of the voice, and real-time electronics. Shu Hai in an orchestral setting adds an orchestra to elaborate upon Shu Hai mitamen behatalat kidon’s second movement. Ute Wassermann is the vocal soloist. She generates all nature of sounds: writhing, sputtering, groaning, hissing, rasping, you name it. The underlying text is unintelligible. Meticulous Mode provides it anyway so you can sample its elemental pungency.

Czernowin leans heavily upon Wassermann’s abilities to fashion “distilled, non-linear poetry.” However, this composer’s orchestral handling proves she’s in control, with nothing left to chance. The widest range of nonstandard instrument noises inhabits her palette. Yes, like Lachenmann. Similar sounds (plucking, tapping, col legno, etc.) appear together, creating clouds of texture. Shu Hai in an orchestral setting is especially riveting because you never know which corner of the orchestra may erupt next or how the voice will be transformed.

The performers must love this music. The Elision Ensemble in Six Miniatures is crystal-clear and exquisite. Conductor Johannes Kalitzke and the Basel Sinfonietta bring it all together superbly. Of course, anything coming from the WDR’s Heinrich Strobel Experimental Studio is worth a listen, especially if shepherded by André Richard. This is Mode’s second Czernowin disc. The first, mode 77, received La Folia acclaim here. May there be a third, and a fourth, and so on.
— Grant Chu Covell, La Folia online review, December 2003



Also by Chaya Czernowin on Mode Records:
Afatsim: chamber works with Arditti Quartet, others (mode 77)
Pnima…ins Innere: Opera in 3 Acts, (mode 169 DVD)

Also by Johannes Kalitzke on Mode Records:
Giacinto Scelsi: The Orchestral Works 2 (mode 176)
Stefan Wolpe: Wolpe in Jerusalem (mode 156)

Chaya Czernowin profile
ELISION Ensemble profile
Johannes Kalitzke profile
Zohar Eitan profile
The Experimental Studio of the Heinrich Strobel Foundation profile
Basel Sinfonietta profile
Ute Wassermann profile