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Solo Recital

The concert on June 11 is part of the festival Tage der neuen Klaviermusik Graz.

Frankly, I’ve really missed staging something in the past months. On June 11, I’ll make a comeback as pianist with works by Richard Dünser, Katharina Roth and two books of my work XXI Oracles of the Night — in the course of which the second book is being premiered. Having been studying the pieces for more than half a year, I’m definitely looking forward to playing these works in public. All the pieces orbit arount the subject «Nocturne». I was looking for a programme that conveys faintly Romantic emotional worlds and sinisterly obscure soundscapes respectively.

Admittingly I tend to enjoy contemporary music that does not sound as we might expect modern music to be like. Music that seems to have fallen out of time can be extremely exciting—as long as it doesn’t present itself unprogressive or even reactionary. As a composer, I believe in individual solutions, in personal styles that might be arbitrary or just unfashionable and I assume that almost every great artist cannot be confused with another artist, due to his or her most individual compositional strategies. Naturally, composing successfully in the spirit of the time is repugnant to that idea to a certain extent.

Setup for premiering the second book of XXI Oracles of the Night –
a Saturn gong, four singing bowls and several mallets.

When working on my second book of XXI Oracles of the Night I have intensively meditated on harmonic clarity. We need structures that are recognizable and such structures that are apt to cause nebulosity at the same time. On the one hand, I added rather complex harmonies to my pieces using a planet gong and four singing bowls and melted these tonal colours with the equal-tempered tones of the piano. When writing for the piano and designing harmonic progressions, we must always consider the usage of the pedal as well. Thus the actual sounding result might be far more complex than what’s apparently written in the score—just have a think about it. The crucial thing, and I daresay the more difficult thing, is how to establish harmonic clarity while using the pedal function unstintingly. There are several strategies I chose to accomplish this task:

  • (a) Writing rather simple chords. Seems easy, but isn’t really. Take a major triad. It will easily come to the foreground, but everyone will think «Oh, a lovely triad—how boring!». We can circumvent that problem to a certain degree by mixing a triad together with another simple chord. This results in Sacre-like chords (comp. Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps, mark 13f.). Furthermore we might consider accelerating the tempo of chord progressions while still holding down the pedal. Quite effective, rather difficult to play, yet the result will eventually become more and more obscure.
  • (b) Reducing the texture and the speed respectively. Morton Feldman is unsurpassed in applying this method in order to create transparent structures and patterns. When working with very complex chords (with pitches that deviate from the twelve chromatic tones) this is a nice way to grant the listener some time to understand what’s happening harmonically. The problem is, it is in contradiction to classic virtuosity to some extent.
  • (c) Using primitive scales. I really avoided writing diatonic structures thus far. It’s like touching the fire: One might get burned easily. We all know what the white keys sound like and we all have grown accustomed to the sound of a pentatonic scale really well. It’s become dull. However, in the middle of a a harmonic mess (remember, let’s keep the right pedal down for a while), such primitive structures might just establish the smidge of clarity we were striving to. Combining (a) and (c) in Presto or Agitato can result in very interesting, very complex and very exciting passages, I have found out. The vital question is: How long can a structure based on a primitive scale last at the maximum? In my work, I escaped my diatonic structures within five seconds, and additionally they are always flanked by something else such as a (microtonally deviant) stroke of the gong etc.

Other than that, in XXI Oracles of the Night, I was aiming at bringing allusions to esotericism into my music. On the one hand, the titles of the single movements such as The Solar Wind in the second book by themselves evoke the idea of an unearthly something happening around us. I did my best to translate such overtones into my piano pieces. Observed from a musical point of view, they become audible in the instrumentation for the one thing. Planet gongs and singing bowls are closely assiciated with a certain utilization context. The other idea of how to include the allurement of a possibly supernatural existence was to play around with musical clarity. Whenever we feel we could hang on to a theme, a chord, a tonality, whatsoever, the music descends elsewhere. It only gives us hints, some of which are stronger, others scarcely discernible.

Concert: Orakel der Nacht
Friday, June 11 2021, 9:00 PM
KULTUM, Mariahilferplatz 3, 8020 Graz

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Solo Instrument Work

XXI Orakel der Nacht 2

XXI Orakel der Nacht – Zweites Heft
for piano (2020)

EN

Five pieces combined to a cyclic work form the second book of my book of oracles in 21 parts for the piano. The five pieces are entitled “The WindsocK”, “The Royal Sail”, “The Cyclone”, “The Solar Wind” and “Egyptian Dark”. As it can be found out easily, the movements orbit the subject wind (the face assigned to the wind is ⚁) in all its facets. Moreover, the other subjects of the book of oracles appear as well: moonlight (⚀), water (⚂), soil (⚃), stars (⚄) and bells (⚅).

A small set of percussion instruments—four singing bowls and an accurately tuned (Saturn) gong—are added to the many instrumental colours of the piano and its sound spaces in this book. Apposite to the complex of themes, the instrumentation is deliberately echoing it in an faintly esoteric way. Musically observed, especially the gong acts as a spirit medium arbitrating between the well-tempered world of the piano and the microtonal macrocosm outwith the instrument.

The second book of my book of oracles was written in the summer and autumn of 2020.

DE

Fünf zu einem zyklischen Werk zusammengefassente Stücke bilden das zweite Heft meines 21-teiligen Orakelbuchs für Klavier. Die fünf Stücke heißen „Der Windsack“, „Das Mondsegel“, „Der Zyklon“, „Der Sonnenwind“ und „Ägyptisches Dunkel“. Wie man unschwer erkennt, umkreisen die Sätze das Thema Wind (das dem Wind zugewiesene Würfelbild ist ⚁) in all seinen Facetten. Darüber hinaus erscheinen auch die anderen Themen des Orakelbuchs: Mondlicht (⚀), Wasser (⚂), Erde (⚃), Sterne (⚄) und Glocken (⚅).

Zu den vielen instrumentalen Farben des Klaviers und seiner Klangräume kommt in diesem Heft ein kleines Schlagwerk-Instrumentarium aus vier Klangschalen und einem exakt gestimmten (Saturn-)Gong hinzu. Passend zur Thematik ist der esoterisch anmutende Anklang durch die erweiterte Instrumentierung durchwegs beabsichtigt. Musikalisch betrachtet fungiert insbesondere der Gong hier als Medium, das zwischen der wohltemperierten Welt des Klaviers und dem mikrotonalen Makrokosmos außerhalb des Instruments vermittelt.

Das zweite Heft meines Orakelbuchs entstand im Sommer und im Herbst 2020.

INSTRUMENTATION:
piano

DURATION: 13 minutes

PUBLISHED BY:
Universal Edition

PREMIERE:
June 11, 2021 • Graz, KULTUM • Christoph Renhart, piano

PERFORMANCES:
December 7, 2021 • Leipzig, Grieg Gedenkstätte • Gregor Forbes, piano

Categories
Ensemble Universal Edition Work

Échos éloquents

Échos éloquents | Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles | Jean-Paul Dessy (conductor)

Échos éloquents
for seven players (2016)
version pour Mons for nine players (2019)

English

Let us try to figure out the shape of an echo: What is said by an echo is what it does not articulate. The information about the echo itself is to be derived from what is swallowed by it or from the way how the reverberation is distorting the original message. An echo itself might be contoured as the phantasmorgia of a reality of which we might only guess its silhouettes by noticing a deviation to a formerly known content.

Échos éloquents tries to portrait this phenomenon in a sonic way. Sounds are being triggered by preceding sounds and sometimes mirrored in a very blurred and hardly recognisable way. Listening to music is similar to a memory game: We strive towards understanding a context by re-cognizing a theme, a chord, a gesture or whatever else. If someone alters the memory cards while we are playing, it starts to get exciting as we might wish to find out, who caused the mess.

The work itself is a kind of an echo to my work miroirs noirs which pictures another way of describing the same phenomenon by a different orchestration. Both work spoon their musical materials—like two sister-volcanos—from one magma chamber.

German

Was aus dem Echo spricht ist, was es nicht sagt, was es verschluckt, was es zerdehnt, was verhallt. Das Zerrbild einer Wirklichkeit, das verräterisch die Umrisse jener Oreade erahnen lässt, die, längst Stein geworden, alles Gesagte verschlingt um es wieder neu auszusprechen. So vielsagend ihre Laute sind, und zugleich so nichtssa-gend, so sehr hören wir in diesen Klang hinein, um darin irgendetwas zu finden.

Échos éloquents spinnt sich als Dialog zwischen Gesagtem und Zurückgesagtem durch die stumme Kulisse der Zeit fort. Der Sprechende findet im Wider-hall die Resonanz des Findenden, steigert sich in seine aufschaukelnden Worte hinein, um sie am Ende zu verlieren, um sprachlos zurück zu bleiben.

Das Werk selbst ist ein Echo auf mein neues Werk miroirs noirs, welches das dazu parallele Phänomen nicht spiegelnder Spiegel thematisiert. Beide Werke schöpfen ihr Material, wie zwei verschwisterte Vulkane, aus einer Magmakammer.

INSTRUMENTATION:
Flute, clarinet in Bb (also bass clarinet), percussion (1 player), piano, violin, viola, violoncello
Version pour Mons: + trombone and guitar

PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS:
bass drum, tam tam, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, gong tuned C, tubular bells

DURATION:
11 minutes

PUBLISHED BY:
Universal Edition

PREMIERE:
November 21, 2016 • Graz, Minoritensaal • Schallfeld Ensemble • Leonhard Garms, conductor

PERFORMANCES:

  • November 30, 2019 • Mons, Arsonic • Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles • Jean-Paul Dessy, conductor
  • April 29, 2023 • Seoul, Seoul Arts Ceneter • ensemble blank • Jaehyuck Choi, conductor

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