Ultima Armonia

CD Ultima Armonia: Someone Killed the Swan / Laments on South- Eastern Europe

Boris Kovač – soprano and alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Stevan Kovač Tickmayer – piano, sampler
Miloš Matić – double bass
Lav Kovač – drums

1. The Morning
2. Someone Killed the Swan
3. Folk Cabaret
4. Dark Imprints
5. Hymn
6. Gardon Music II / piano solo
7. Africa
8. The Noon / sax solo
9. Final Lament




This CD production was supported by The Secretariat of Culture and Public information of Vojvodina Region and by the City Councilor for Culture of Novi Sad.

Ultima Armonia

From Bach to Piazzolla, most of the composers who are of deliberate authenticity based their creative process on improvisation. Improvisation is an archetypical shape of the creative impulse in music (and in art in general). It is the basis of the creative experience, the foundation of musical vigilance and sensitivity. It rises from creative intuition and represents the irreducible, untranslatable part of the creative process. It is the source of playing and composing, their organic bond. Improvisation, in its authentic expression, is the organic compound of composing and performing: composing in real time of the exact performance and composition is, as seen, nothing else but improved, craftsman shaped and elaborated ie. arranged improvisation, which is fixed by memorizing or by notation.

Composers and instrumentalists Boris Kovač and Stevan Kovač Tickmayer have been engaging themselves for at least 3 decades in improvised music and researching the relations between improvisation and composition. In their common project, the first since Ritual Nova in 1987, called ULTIMA ARMONIA – with the participation of Miloš Matić, double bass player and composer, and Lav Kovač, one of the most talented Serbian young musicians, drummer and percussionist – in the phase of their creative maturity they decided to create a collaborative musical act, with an open shape, starting from improvisation.

In the poetical sense, they find an ontological “background” in the traditional music and culture of the Pannonian-Carpathian-Balkan area, which represents their common spiritual, cultural and historical context. The music of this quartet is a collective attempt to redefine and reaffirm the idea of improvised music based on the dialogue among the musicians, who are equal, a dialogue whose has its deep roots in the musical tradition of the above mentioned areas. One of the usual prejudices concerning the term “improvisation” is the immediate connection of this musical practice with jazz music. Even though ULTIMA ARMONIA cannot be strictly identified as jazz., the musicians who take part into this project do not dissociate from some jazz influence while developing their musical expression.With their musical hermeneutics, the musicians add to the tradition new directions and guidelines, taking from it only what they consider vivid and inspirational for them. At the same time, they try to “revive” it, using the contemporary course of musical thinking: the language of structural improvisation enriched with positive experience of musical modernism and post-modernism as with some elements of the heritage of previous musical periods, especially the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the early Baroque, times during which improvisational approach to musical creation was still taken in account, and which later inevitably atrophied, in accordance with Western specialization and labour division on composers and performers. In this sense this project also represents a contribution to redefine the very basis of Western musical practice.

Boris Kovač and Stevan Kovač Tickmayer
text translated in English by Sara Gigante

Background of both protagonists Quartet Ultima Armonia is not dissimilar. Saxophonist and bass clarinet Boris Kovač (1955) comes from Pannonia (born in Novi Sad) and his musical beginnings took place under the sign of a combination of ethnic and modern avant-garde inspiration (see Ritual Nova Ensemble), which emptied into the artfully conceived ritual liturgy. Novi Sad is also the birthplace of Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer. His Tickmayer Formatio captures mainly apocalypse contemporary world, “the old hopes and new fears”, recorded extensively encrypted form. The combination of both composers and musicians, not only the sum of the previous quests were (including Kovac’s “rebound” to tango-kind of commotion…), is built in symbiosis with the participation of bassist and drummer Milos Matic and Lav Kovac as captivating “Lamenting from Southeast Europe” which says the subtitle album Someone Killed the Swan. Pannonian-Carpathian-Balkan alliance, served here with a subtle hesitation, there with wistful pensiveness elsewhere with plaintive gloomines or calmed melancholy has its roots in local folklore tradition, which combines somber conceived-nesswith a bit of heroism, melancholy with inspired urgency. The whole album sounds like a dance on mines, lamenting there is conceived as a starting point and when occurs quiet vivacity is accompanied by a noticeable gloom…Mourning, whichovercomes theseverity ofthe contemporary world?

The albumas acleansing bathfor all those whowould understandinterwining searches of the pastand(post)modern concept…
Read the whole article in Czech and translation in Serbian by Vladimir Marko.

…The music expresses lamentation throughout its entire progress.  It is especially well and completely articulated in Track 7, The Rite, which starts lightly but becomes distressed and gloomy, doleful and dark, then mournful, pitiable and eventually wretched, as any of us might if we found the swan had been killed. Despite the woe, the music is wonderfully magnificent and always disciplined without being at all regimented.
Read the whole review in English.

…The program greatly benefits from an ECM Records-like audio aesthetic as each note takes on copious proportions, complementing the artists’ alluring soundscapes. A sense of intrigue permeates the production, whether Boris Kovac executes a sublime soprano sax solo or when the quartet accelerates the improv element via interconnecting dialogues and passionate expressionism…
The band’s sprightly enthusiasm continues on the final piece, aptly titled, “Final Lament.” Here Kovac’s probing sax lines touch upon mystical North African modalities, accented by Tickmayer’s gingerly integrated harmonics. Thus, variety is a contributing factor to the quartet’s success as the musicians unite quite a few influencing factors into this galvanizing production…
Read the whole review in English.

Ultima Armonia is a new project by sax player Boris Kovač (Ritual Nova) and keyboardist Stevan Kovač Tickmayer (Science Group), two major musicians from Novi Sad, Vojvodina (ex-Yugoslavia). Here they present a repertoire that arose from improvisation, and they are backed by a rhythm section of doublebass and drums. Sadness, melancholia – we are definitely in the realm of the lament. And we are somewhere between creative jazz, chamber music, and traditional music. The music is beautiful, very melodious…
Read the whole review in English.

Their music looks to…the popular tradition that is part of the culture they bring with them. And yet, from the first notes of the album, The Morning is evident that musicians are educated, highly trained on their instruments: the sound of the soprano saxophone Boris Kovac is undoubtedly that of an artist who has nothing more to learn, even from fellow Americans. Lyrical, adept at inventing melodies on a rhythmic moments very clear that it supports and to keep the attention on what is a song by the development rather complex…Someone Killed the Swan is …a reflection of what has been the recent past. The band’s music eludes current definitions however transpires outside what is the inner world of musicians including jazz, classical, Balkan, who gave a face to their sincere inner inspiration…
Read the whole review in Italian.

Additional information


Recorded at The Synagogue in Novi Sad, in July 2012.
Produced by Boris Kovač. Recorded by Ljuba Pejić.
Mixed by Boris Kovač at KACHARA MM studio Bukovac.
Mastered at Athens Mastering studio, Greece.
Photos by Vanjus.
Front cover designed by Tamara

Management RINGRING PROMOTIONS – http://www.ringring.rs

Review in German:

Bad Alchemy magazine no 83, read the review in German

Die, die hier als ULTIMA ARMONIA mit Someone Killed the Swan (LR 707) ein Lamento auf das südöstliche Europa anstimmen, sind alte Bekannte. Stevan Kovač Tickmayer, 1963 in Novi Sad geboren, erregte als Pianist und als Kom-ponist mit seiner Formatio und den LPs SPES und Boldogító Pillanatok • Mo-ments To Delight (Music In Memory Of Kassàk Lajos) / Urban Music (beide 1988 bei Muzička Omladina Vojvodine erschienen) die Aufmerksamkeit der Recommended-Szene und spielte dann sogar mit Chris Cutler in The Science Group. Seine Zugehörigkeit zur ungarischen Minderheit in der Vojvodina brachte ihn mit György Szabados und György Kurtág zusammen, er arrangierte Musik für Iva Bittová, seine eigene wurde von Gidon Kremers Kremerata Baltica auf¬geführt. Der andere gute Bekannte ist der acht Jahre ältere, ebenfalls aus Novi Sad stammende Saxophonist und Bassklarinettist Boris Kovač , der seinerseits mit seinen profanen Liturgien und ökumenischen Mysterien, die er mit dem Ritual Nova Ensemble inszenierte, die Recommended-Kompassnadel Richtung Balkan zeigen ließ. Zusammen mit Milos Matič, dem Kontrabassisten im Ritual Nova Ensemble, in La Campanella und im LaDaABa Orchest, und dem Drum¬mer Lav Kovač, einem weiteren Kovač-Intimus, spielen sie die teils komponier¬ten, teils intuitiv kreierten Essenzen dessen, was Kovač mit Arbeiten wie Bal¬lads at the End of Time – La Danza Apocalyptica Balcania (2001) oder World After History (2005) als Trauerarbeit zur Lebensaufgabe gemacht hat. Eine Imaginäre Folklore, in die Tickmayer hier seine ‘Gardon Music II’ einbettet, ein rasantes Solo auf präpariertem Piano, und Kovač das Sax-Solo ‘The Noon’. Es ist das freilich eine Folklore, die alles völkisch Dumpfe mit sublimer Melancho¬lie und leiser Hoffnung konterkariert. ‘The Rite’ ist weder Opfer- noch Kriegs¬tanz, sondern ein ganz langsam accelerierender Hop, der nicht Front macht. ‘Dark Imprints’ natürlich mit Bassklarinette und ‘Hymn’ als Melodicadrone be¬tonen ebenso wehmütig die dunkle Seite wie das Titelstück mit seiner zart¬bitteren Klage. Von der Dämmerung von ‘The Morning’ bis zum ‘Final Lament’ als Serenade spinnt sich die Musik ein in eine Tristesse, die aber, wie ‘Folk Ca¬baret’ als unkriegerischer Marsch durch die Blume andeutet, jederzeit dazu aufgelegt wäre, den Verhältnissen schwofend eine Nase zu drehen. [BA 83 rbd]

Komentar na srpskom:

Utemeljenje obojice protagonista kvarteta Ultima Harmonia nije neslično. Saksofonista Boris Kovač (1955) potiče iz Panonije (rođen je u Novom Sadu) a njegovi muzički počeci su se odigravali u znaku kombinacije etničke inspiracije i moderne avangarde (viz Ritual Nova Ensemble), koja je stremila prema rafiniranom shvatanju ritualne liturgičnosti. Novi Sad je takođe rodno mesto violiniste Stevana Kovača Tickmayera (1963), koji uglavnom pripada lokalnoj mađarskoj populaciji. Njegov Tickmayer Formatio pre svega obuhvata apokalipsu savremenog sveta, „stare nade i nove bojazni“, obuhvaćene u mnogome šifrovanom formom. Spoj obojice kompozitora i muzičara ne znači samo zbir dosadašnjeg istraživanja (računajući Kovačov „iskorak“ u žamor tanga, viz Alternativa, Praha) je izgrađen u uzajamnoj simbiozi i uz učešće kontrabasiste Miloša Matića i bubnjara Lava Kovača, kao pleneća „lamentacija iz jugoistočne Evrope“, što je upravo i podnaslov albuma Someone Killed the Swan. Već samo po sebi dostojno pažnje, da su iz naslova devet komprovizacija izabrali upravo taj najturobniji, ali ova turobnost i ovo lamentovanje provlači se celim diskom. Panonsko-karpatska-balkanska prepletenost, negde pružana sa suptilnom uzdržanošću a negde sa zadubljenom zamišljenošću, drugde sa naričućom zatamnjenošću ili sa smirenom sumornošću, ima svoje korene u lokalnoj folklornoj tradiciji, u kojoj se meša zamišljenost sa primesom herojizma, tragizujuća dubokomislenost sa nadahnutom upornošću. Ceo album mi se čini kao ples na minama, lamentovanje je ovde shvaćeno kao polazište, podrivajuće, prevazilazeće, ali nikad prevaziđeno, iznenađujuće i probijajuće bludni krug a kada se pojavi utišana živahnost praćena je znatnom tugaljivošću. Ni Folk Cabaret ovde se prilično ne raspojasa uprkos svoje vašarske plesovitosti, harmoničnost i melodičnost celine je nenametljiva, suptilna, takoreći sumorna. Tome odgovara dvojnost instrumentalne saglasnosti pijana i soprana, odnosno alta i basklarineta, pri čemu Tickmayer nekada upucavajući klavijaturiše u Kovačovu melodiju, a što bubnjevi, iako ponekad podvlače, ipak su većinom prigušeni a isto tako ni bas ne diže suviše glavu. Tugovanje, koje prevazilazi muku savremenog sveta? I ovako bi se sadržaj albuma mogao izraziti. Ako umetnici izlaze iz polumraka davnih vremena i počnu da spajaju žaljenje sa kuražnošću, pojačavaju tempo i glasnoću sa naglašenim šuškanjem ili nezadrživim jecanjem, razmašu se ka koračnici balkanskog kola, da bi se odmah vratili u ravnotežnu dekonstrukciju (viz The Rite, rozebernost – rozebrat je demontirati, ova reč inače, kao i dosta drugih ovde, ne postoji nigde osim u ovom textu!!!). Ni Kovač ni Tickmayer se ne uzdrže od solo extempore, ono Tickmayerovo, koje koristi prepraraciju, sumorno srceparajuće, odmah zatim zajapureno tvrdoglavo, umirujuće preteće, dok Kovačevo uporno setno, nebujno poklično, u njegovoj zadubljenosti kao da počiva gorski pogled na široko rasprostreti predeo.
Spojem svih komprovizacija je slovenska produhovljenost, doduše, izrazito balkanska, ali tim pre neprecivilizovana, prirodna, organska, nekada nestalna, ali nikada nekontrolisana, povremeno gladeća, koja uvek prameni iz prafolklorne suštine, nekada otuđena, ali koja ipak uvek izražava današnje osećaje. Album je kao kupka očišćenja za sve, koji su u stanju da shvate prepletenost rešerša prošlosti i njihovog (post)modernog shvatanja.
prevod: Vladimir Marko