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Two wildly contradictory portraits of Viola T., painted at various stages of her life
Known Identity(s) / Name(s)
Sawara (common misspelling)
late Vedic period ~ Classical Antiquity, though the time is not exactly known...
Main Area of Activity
non-lingual and non-religious recitations
Possible Influences (Musical / Literary / Philosophical, etc.)
Mozarabic / Visigothic chant
Probably born somewhere within the Indus Valley region (birth year unknown), in a large family of philosophers and poets. She seems to have gone by various names throughout her lifetime, possibly referred to as “Swara” as a child.
|It is believed that Viola grew up at a time when this was a city of peaceful intellectuals devoted to truth and the origins of sound.|
As a young teenager V. began to wander large distances, searching for the unknown, or what could not be exactly determined or contextualized. Traces of her early presence have been found as far east as present day Mongolia, as far south as Mauritania, and as far west as France.
(left image, front right) a depiction of Torros attending a lecture by Pythagoras of Samos.
(right image, seated on the far left) V. is said to have participated in various
art movements throughout the present day Middle East.
It is assumed that V. spent many years trying to escape poetry and philosophy, but always seemed to find herself amongst poets and philosophers, who seemed to be her greatest friends and inspirers. Her recovered work seems to suggest that she was interested in composing music that was non-lingual, non-religious, and non-theatrical. She herself must have had a very exciting life, but she never seemed to find interest in creating a narrative to describe any of the events she experienced or witnessed. She seemed to be uninterested in devoting her work to some kind of divinity (unlike many of her contemporaries). Perhaps this explains why there is no indication of the use of comprehensible words, though in one found document there are fragmented syllables (the script and meaning unknown). It is certainly indicated that she was interested in the voice, as there are remnants of such. She took great interest in the work of those who were developing (later to be known as) Visigothic Chant, for instance. It is also assumed that she must have taken part in a vast variety of musical projects.
“Torros” depicted (far left) attending a musical meeting led by the Galician composer/poet Airas Nunes.
It seems V. Torros carried lute-like instruments (possibly various alterations) around with her wherever she went. Some were perhaps similar to the rabab, and others similar to the modern day instrument which is, perhaps, her namesake. It is unclear whether she was the initial inventor, or whether she was friendly with a highly developed (or several), unknown maker(s). Regardless, she certainly is one of the earliest known composers to have written for such modern-like bowed string instruments.
found depictions of v. Torros with her instruments, though possible lesser/greater known contemporaries..
At some point v. Torros seems to have disappeared from the cultural centers she found herself initially drawn to. It is believed she settled further north, most probably into the foothills of what is now considered the Alps. It is here where archeologists have discovered musical, written documents (in a peculiar notation), embedded under layers of stone, which could only be attributed to her.
THE MUSIC OF TORROS
Manuscripts discovered near the believed site of the Torros home in the Alps, believed to be indications of phonetic shading orientations, (one on left) possibly for a large ensemble of bowed lute-like instruments and extremely high-ranged voice(s).
Researchers are currently in the process of recovering and interpreting her work, as well as searching for other remnants. What has been found is mostly fragments. J. Chang, for instance, is currently studying various “chordal” fragments, though some of the “chords” seem to be a single tone, or, perhaps, nothing. One belief is that these “fragments” are actually purposeful and to be left as they are. Other theories are that she intended on the fragments to be installed (performed) across large distances. Still other theories are that the fragments should be interpreted as audible shadings between parts.
partial reconstruction, fragment 1
Numerous luminaries such as (from left) Mian Tansen (b. 1493), Magister Leoninus (b. 1151?), Hildegard of Bingen (b. 1098), and Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi (b. 779) were possible students, students of students, contemporaries, or great great great great great nephews/nieces, although clearly none of them accepted her non-devotional tone...
Compiled by Catherine Lamb & Johnny Chang 08/2013
 It is almost certain that Viola spent considerable time in Al-Andalus, the medieval Muslim territory which encompasses modern day Spain, Portugal, Andorra and part of southern France. During this period (around 1050 a.d.), Viola may have become acquainted with poet Wallada bint al-Mustakfi, daughter of Muhammad III of Córdoba. It was probably also during this time, that Viola acquired the now known name of “Torros”. The name “Torros” is most likely a reference to the confectionary sweet which she was particularly fond of, the Turrón, typically made of honey, sugar, egg white, with toasted almonds and other nuts, derived from the culinary tradition of Iberian Muslims during the Al-Andalus period. It is believed that Viola’s contemporaries began to refer to her as Viola Torros.
Berlin-based composer and violinist Johnny Chang engages in extended explorations surrounding the relationships of sound/silence and the in-between areas of improvisation, composition, performance and listening.
harmony series 11 – 16
Johnny Chang (violin), James Orsher (harmonium), Kathryn Pisaro (oboe), Michael Pisaro (guitar), Marc Sabat (violin), Mark So, (piano) Greg Stuart (percussion)
Edition Wandelweiser Records EWR 0710 (2007) >
Zachary James Watkins - Suite for String Quartet
Johnny Chang, Gerhard Uebele (violins), Miriam Götting (viola), Martin Smith (cello), Zachary James Watkins (electronics)
Confront Collectors Series CCS 14 (2010)
ECHTZEITMUSIK BERLIN - Compilation
The Pitch Extended
mikroton recordings mikroton 14/15/16 (2012)
Johnny Chang (violin), Jamie Drouin (analogue synthesizer)
Infrequency Editions IN 017 (2012)
Wandelweiser und so weiter (6 cd box set)
CD2 - Crosscurrents
Pierre Borel / Johnny Chang / Derek Shirley Etchings
Another Timbre AT 56x6 (2012)
Alessandro Bosetti (voice/electronics) Johnny Chang (violin), Chris Heenan (contrabass clarinet)
Weird Ear Records (2012)