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Yordan Kamdzhalov: I create spaces through music

‘I don’t create art to make people happy. Making people happy is no use. I want to shock, to destroy clichés, to transform’, says the grand conductor.

Critics have named him "the most promising young conductor of the XXI century", "genius in the world of music", but for me, he is … a daring young magician, in the very literal sense of this word. He waves his wand and enchants everybody. Just like that, with no effort, no ego and shyness. During his concert in "Bulgaria" hall, I could not move. My thoughts shed one by one, opening space for something I could not quite define

Kamdzhalov „grasped" each member of the audience and took them all to new colorful worlds, which could not be described, but rather lived. You sense these spaces are not even new, but some forgotten old harbors. Places, where body, soul and spirit converge into a single entity.

As to protocols, it's appropriate to remind you the fact that Dancho, as his friends like to call him, is just 33 years old, but he already has conquered stages all over the world. He has played with leading orchestras from London, Zurich, Lucerne, Bon, Berlin, Paris, Toscana, Boston, New York, Hamburg, Helsinki, Kosice, Basel, Singapore, Tokyo, etc. He is the winner of numerous prizes from all over the world, among which the first prize in the fourth international competition for conductors Jorma Panula in Finland (2009), the prize of the musical critics of the 24thCentral European Music Festival. In 2010, Kamdzhalov has been nominated by the German radio "Fazit", for the best opera conductor, and last year Opernwelt, the most popular opera magazine in the world has nominated him for the best performance of the year.  

In 2011, Kamdzhalov has unprecedentedly become the first foreign national, who has won in full consensus the competition for general music director and conductor general of the Opera Theater, the Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Heidelberg Schloss Festival in the cultural center Heidelberg (Germany).  

In 2014, NASA has named space object 52292 with the name "52292 Kamdzhalov" named after the Bulgarian conductor.

Our meeting with the maestro this time is in relation to his new musical project, which per usual is not usual at all, and has charge powerful enough to change worlds.

"People are very vulnerable emotionally. This is why people have shut down much of their hearts".

Ganeta Sagova: Maestro Kamdzhalov, please tell us about your ambitious project, which, we hope, will bring Bulgarian singing art to new heights.

Yordan Kamdzhalov: (Laughs) I will tell you about it. I have been invited to Switzerland, to establish an international chorus. This proposal has been a catalyst of my long-time dream to create a sound apparatus, which works uncompromisingly. But there are certain projects, which I know should only be realized in Bulgaria, in the land of Orpheus...

The reason for this is not that I am a nationalist, but that I believe Bulgarian music has colossal potential, and I believe the world will benefit from knowing more of. Therefore the accent in the repertoire is the Bulgarian folk
, classical and spiritual inheritance. We stand firmly on our chorus traditions. I presume you are aware of this, but for a short time during the 20th century Bulgaria has established such traditions that you would be hard-pressed to find a world competition, in which a Bulgarian chorus has failed to win a prize.  

GS: You are avoiding the use of the word "chorus", why is that?

Because we are creating something new, a musical laboratory, where people will find themselves to a much higher degree than they will study music. Music reveals itself to people who have found themselves. People now are scared to open themselves. They all say we only use 3-4% of our brain, but no one speaks about the heart. Here, in Eastern Europe, we think our souls are more open, but it is not true. If indeed our brain operates at 3-4%, then our heart, too, operates at 3-4%. Maybe this is a self-defense mechanism, maybe people have shut down their hearts too much. But when they work with me, there will be nothing to hide from.  

This laboratory will create prerequisites for important internal changes in people. Do not get me wrong – I am not talking about a chorus, which happens to also meditate. If we want to do something just for us, we will go up in the mountain, and enjoy nature. There is nothing more wonderful than the mountain! But we get together to create this operating musical apparatus. Work, work, work! Work will be done professionally and responsibly. With great discipline, great sense of duty and aspiration for contribution

I dream of a collective volcano, which will erupt in joy, delight, inspiration, attitude, thought and feeling. I do believe we can go out of our shells, we can unfold ourselves. We can make people feel...  

And when I say "unfold", I mean that this is the only way for us to be isomorphic with the Universe, The Universe, as the good readers of Magazine 8 know, is in a state of constant expansion – just a few minutes ago it was smaller than it is now. Because the Universe expands, it means we, too, have to expand. If we remain static, we momentarily are in disharmony with the Universe, because the Universe is in total dynamics.

GS: How did the audition go? What types of people attended? 

YK: The casting has been conducted at an extremely high level. People have shown great interest, they are craving for another type of work, for self-development. This shows that my feeling of urgent need of this musical laboratory has been at the right time and place. This is a compliment for us, Bulgarians, despite what has been said recently, that we have lost our faith, and we are passive. It is quite the contrary.

GS: What were the criteria for selection of participants?

I have 3 requirements. First of all – they need to have a very good voice. Second – they have to think and feel. And third – they have to realize that spirituality is the only meaningful future of our civilization. They have to identify with what they do! Only then, people can truly convince other people. It is just as Marius Kurkinski – he creates a parallel world out of a text, which seems rather simple at first glance. Same thing goes for music. When you identify yourself with it, you become a geyser. I will get together 30 or 40 musical geysers, 40 musical Mariuses.

I want us to be a hologram, a future model of functioning. A parade of absolute democracy – all are equal, all are identically important. Chorus art is the most democratic art – it has been described in this form during antiquity. In Athens, part of the definition for an educated man used to be that this man sang in a chorus. But we will not be elitist, and we will not only sing in big halls, we will also go to hospitals, orphanages

We will be contagious through our own lives. I see this team as a family, which could show to the world how we can be united through art
. And we will always have one direction – be absolutely honest, authentic, and brave. These are characteristics of children. Children have no policy, no calculations they are authentic and creative, and these are skills that we, adults, lose over time. Those of us, who have preserved these qualities, are geniuses. Both Mozart and Einstein were children in many aspects. The wonderful violinist Maxim Vengerov is 40 years old now, but when you look at him, you see a child.

GS: When could be expect the first concert?  

In a year we will be doing a national tour, and by 2016-2017 we would have had concerts in many countries in Europe.

GS: Why a chorus, and not an orchestra?  

I have studied chorus conducting both in Sofia and Berlin. I have founded a total of four choruses - two in Berlin, and two in Sofia. I have created chamber orchestra in Berlin and a foundation in Sofia, for young Bulgarian artists. I am also the initiator of the resurgence of the unique international festival of women and girls choruses in Targovishte, to which I am an honorable chairman. For me to create has always been a part of who I am, of my life… The new aspect now is the steely resolve in the direction this project will develop towards.  

Internationally, I mostly work as an orchestral conductor, but I can positively say that the advantage is that the chorus works with a text. Human voice could be a direct function of the heart. What I'm also interest in is the absolute convergence between words and sound. We will create sound to accompany our words, and we will give sound a specific mental direction. What I want is – regardless of which sound we touch upon, we will give it life. We will also model society – our project could be an education method. This is an idea that is known to us since antiquity in Greece, and an idea the great Richard Wagner has identified with, creating "Artwork of the future". Wagner says – "the stage as a tribune, and an altar". And in this aspect, I am thinking about removing the form "concert" – there has to be some mutual participation. In Greece, during antiquity theaters, there was no separation between the performers and the audience. It also did not exist in ritualism during ancient times. I wish we could go back to things which have existed millennia ago. I wish we could involve people in the process of art.  

The truth is, I never wanted to make just music. To me, music is an instrument, and it is a means to create space. Music is used to transport ideas. That is why I never wanted to make art to make people happy
. Making people happy is no use. I want to shock, to transform, to destroy clichés. If there is anything which stops people from developing, it is repeating clichés and dogma.

GS: This summer you had an incredible concert in "Bulgaria" hall. You drove people crazy. Your critics called you "the musical genius of the new century". How do you manage this?  

There is a really fine difference between the good and the extraordinary performance. It is passed through in the activation of certain rarely touched areas of the heart. Two years ago, we did "Resurrection Symphony" by Gustav Maller, and the musicians from Sofia Philharmonic cried. They came over with tears in their eyes… So when they invited me to the position as permanent guest conductor, I said 'It is because of these tears that I come back over and over".

We have to expand, this is the only way we can be isomorphic with the Universe.  

Is there anyone who does not dream and does not crave to be creative, honest, and giving in their work? Is there anyone who would voluntarily be feeling miserable on their own, not wanting to prove themselves? All we need for people to fly is to provide the right conditions.

GS: In your opinion, what is the future of music?

Penetration of the musical substance on a molecular, micron level. Because sensitivity of the modern human being is indurate, it is easier for the modern human being to prove themselves in larger forms. Whereas each sound and each word – they are separate worlds. That is how I see the future. I will once again mention Marius Kurkinski – he comes over, he says two words, and this is just incredible. Why do you need a full Shakespearian play? Each word is a huge space – it opens doors. The same thing is valid for each note.

We can extract the potential of both the sound and the word. Take the word "love". For someone, this is absolutely everything. "God is love" – therefore love is everything. For someone else, this is something on an everyday level. Nowadays we do not need new definitions, we need new content. We live in the age of interpretation, and not the age of composition in the field of art. All possible forms for reaching the peak of human emotionality and mentality have been created. We have to open ourselves, not hide behind creating new forms. We live parasitically off all this wonderful music that exists. We enjoy it from the outside, without going on the inside.

GS: NASA has decided to name an asteroid in the Solar system in your own name... 

I have never dreamed of it, I have never thought of it. When I was 13, I wanted to work for NASA, and even though I don't work for NASA, I'm part of all this in another way.  

GS: In your opinion, what is the connection between music and astronomy? 

YK: When I was a school student and I had to perform in front of live audience, I had stage fever. The only thing which calmed me down was reading physics and astronomy books. Observing the stars and the Universe allows us to understand how small and insignificant we are, with our own problems. Music, mathematics and physics are platforms, which operate on a daily basis with the concept of infinity! Certain layers exist in music, which could not be reached at all. It is exactly this perspective, which is the main inspiration for me.

GS: Why did you decide to study Astronomy as your university major?
This has been my dream since I was very young, for more than 20 years. Back then I did not know what I wanted to do – science, philosophy, or art – the three most significant manifestations of human civilization. All three reach to infinity, all three have the same purpose. But this body only had the time for one education, and time to only do one thing. I chose music, because of the social element. It allows the opportunity of being in direct contact with people. Share with them what you're interested in. I know that in a laboratory I would also be happy, but the element of sharing would be limited. This instinct, and the desire to contribute, it is what moves people. Desire to share the results of your work is what moves people. So therefore today I think I have made the right choice.  

But I do have sadness in my soul as regards to astronomy. As a school student, I had utopia plans. I was telling myself – I will become a very good musician, I will be travelling in my own airplane. I will find a mathematician or a physicist, who is very, very advanced – to tell me about topical things – keep me posted, cheer me up if I'm sad because I left science behind. I would be travelling, and he will tell me – "Look, we discovered this and that

This part of my dream I could not realize (laughs), but when I visited Heidelberg as a general music director, during a cocktail I met the director of the largest institute of astronomy in Germany. His passion was music, and my passion was science. We hugged. We were like Yin and Yang. He told me: "I will attend all of your concerts", and I replied: "I will attend all of your lectures". Thus I started attending weekly lectures in astronomy. When something in the lecture I attended was not quite enough to satisfy my curiosity, I call him and I ask him questions… So, in a way, my dream came true.

You can find more information at: www.kamdzhalov.com