Johannes Maria Staud (1974)
Vielleicht zunächst wirklich nur (1999)
six miniatures for soprano and six instruments
- General information
- Duration: 8 mn
- Publisher: Universal Edition
Libretto (details, author):
- Composition date: 1999
- Vocal music and instrument(s) [Solo voice and ensemble of up to 9 instruments]
- soloist: 1 solo soprano
- 1 alto flute (also 1 bass flute), 1 trumpet, 1 percussionist, 1 harp, 1 viola, 1 double bass
13 April 2000
Autriche, Vienne, Konzerthaus
Christine Whittlesey et l’Ensemble Modern, direction : Stefan Asbury.
Max Bense (1910-1990), the philosopher and one of the founders of “concrete poetry”, was encouraged by a real event to compose this text. The almost unconscious speaking of a young girl is imitated, a girl who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck, clinging to a board, covered with salt, washed up on the beach and incessantly speaking. A young doctor took down her shreds of words and became convinced that she had just escaped being murdered, with the rest of her family, by a man who was captaining their yacht. A Mr Harvey, a highly decorated World War II veteran, later confessed to the crime.
Some indication of Bense’s philosophy of language may be given by this short quotation from his preface to Vielleicht zunächst wirklich nur: “So the words do not necessarily and steadily follow a linear trace of names, where no association is decaying, but rather they proceed in an aleatory or visually determined way through the grey air of meanings that hang over each area, disappear forever or remain.”
In the composition I was not concerned to use sound-painting to duplicate or illustrate Bense’s text – which can certainly live without music – but very deliberately to make a personal interpretation. What fascinated me was how Bense took this bizarre, nightmare, notebook plot through a maximum of linguistic reduction to arrive nevertheless – or for that very reason – at an extremely fragile and poetic text. Immediate notations, instantly expressive small forms, in which the attention is not on expansive drama, epic width or expressionist gesture, pressed themselves upon me as a suitable sort of musical conversion. Hence these six intimate miniatures, interlocking in order to increase coherence, each sparked by the specific sound, rhythm and intensity of its text.
Johannes Maria Staud.