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Schön (1993)

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For electric guitar, two violins, viola, cello and double bass.
Duration 13 minutes
19th October 1993, Seth Josel/Koechlin Ensemble/James Avery (Cond.), Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany.
Programme note
Schön... was written for Seth Josel and the Koechlin Ensemble to play at the 1993 Tage für Neue Musik festival in Stuttgart, Germany. The theme of the festival that year was music and text, in particular, those possibilities other than (mere) 'word setting' that arise when musical and textural 'objects' are brought into close contact. For my piece, I borrowed the concept of 'companion pieces' from the (purely musical) repertoire and transferred it across the media, so that Schön... was, from the very start, intended to only function fully when performed alongside the poem In Praise of Illegal Work by Bertolt Brecht.

Despite this composed dependence, the musical work has no direct thematic or formal links with its 'companion piece'; the (inter)relationship was constructed solely in terms of a perceptual, dramatic strategy which could frame a listener's experience of the two presented texts. In concrete terms, my project was to re-present the Brecht text (which follows the performance of Schön..).

The poem, taken from Die Maßnahme (1929/30), is in a contemporary context, inevitably problematic:- It is 65 years old and the intervening period has seen a proliferation of all the utterly ruthless attempts to maintain an inherently unstable system of (economic) organisation that the original work railed against. The original heroic aspirations of communism on the other hand, the beliefs that through co-operation and mass action a better future could be created, have almost collapsed under the weight of atrocities and cynicism. What I want Schön... to do is to attempt to strip away this filter of received (historical) despair and enable an audience - even if only for a few moments - to hear the poem anew. To be able to listen with refreshed ears and relive the excitement and optimism that surrounded Brecht's text when it was first written and performed.

Schön... lasts about 14 minutes and overlaps slightly with the reading of In Praise of Illegal Work

This page was last updated on 30th April 2009