Ivan Spasov: Heavenly Blue Morning, Noon and the Pathway Behind Noon

Domus Aurea

Swimming Pool, Sofia, 28 September – 8 October 2017


For Domus Aurea we open the exhibition space to the music of Ivan Spasov – composer and conductor with principal contribution to Bulgarian avant-garde in music.

In his work, comprising symphonies, concertos, cantatas-oratorios, theater and films music, choir and solo songs, as well as an unfinished opera, Spasov (1934-1996) has interpreted traditional folklore themes, ornamentation, sound and rhythm, establishing himself as one of the leading figures of the “Bulgarian folklore wave”. He has also composed pieces in the spirit of the instrumental theater, which he called “happenings” as a reference to European tendencies from the second half of 20th century. His vocal and orchestral works form the 1980s and the 1990s deal with mystical, spiritual themes.

Our interest in his work is also a desire to test how much we trust the visible. The installation at Swimming Pool begins with the question “What does it mean to exhibit music in a museum space?” Let’s start from here – what happens when we close our eyes in a concert hall and then open them again? Does music manifest itself differently? For Merlau-Ponty music doubles the visible space with a second, „black space“*, in which other presences are possible. Affects, concepts, relations and images, sneak in and inhabit the visible, not unlike hallucinations. And in an art space music questions the status of the object, the material, the visible in general.

But this installation is more than anything an anticipation of the concert that will take place in the early evening on Saturday. Spasov’s music is thought, time and movement, and these are the basis of the concert’s concept too. It is an exploration of the listening potentialities contained within the pieces themselves. And since movement is presupposed in any gallery space, the concert is also a study of observation of and through music.

Music is, also, a social situation. Politics, institutional structures, private life – unlike the concert hall where audience remains silent and music becomes autonomous – in an exhibition space these contexts are inevitably present. For this reason we have invited Spasov’s colleagues, friends, and his closest people to talk about him and his work.

An important moment of the installation is a copy of the sketch for the score of Sonata No. 4 – unfinished and never performed. The sketch offers a possibility to see music in its openness. It is also a key to the essence of musical score – an abstract notation system similar to other such systems in architecture, mathematics, language, created to be decoded by anyone. But if it is an instruction to which situation does it direct? Especially in classical music with its desire for perfection there is little space for the unrehearsed, for the accidental. Yet, for Spasov this has always been an important element, and he has intentionally left spaces for interpretation. Another concept of freedom.

In the numerous texts written by Spasov – poetry, memories, notes, short essays – he has dealt with loneliness, time, happiness, memory, peace, fear, death. “Clear blue morning…” is the title of his first book, published in 1989 when he was still alive. At the end of his life he mentioned: “Maybe my last composition will be made of one single tone, one single note. I hope it will be beautiful.” This project is also a wish to rediscover Spasov’s poetics – in music and in life.


Viktoria Draganova


* from Phenoménologie de la perception, 1945

  • Draft of Sonata no. 4 by Ivan Spasov  Courtesy: Vasilka Spasova. Photo: Swimming Pool
    Draft of Sonata no. 4 by Ivan Spasov Courtesy: Vasilka Spasova. Photo: Swimming Pool