The music protocol presented the audience of the Steirischer Herbst per evening such a dense program that many people left the respective performance venue at about half-time. This may be due less to a lack of interest than to an overflow of what was heard and seen. In addition, the List Hall, where three evenings in a row were held, is only served by the streetcar in the direction of the city center until 11:15 pm. Unfortunately, this meant that many people missed out on things that would have been worth listening to. Like this evening the “Aria” by Beat Furrer, whose performance we could not attend.
The evening opened brilliantly with the “Piano Concerto” by Kristine Tjøgersen. In action at the piano was Ellen Ugelvik, who did not make it ring from the keys. Rather, as the orchestra played, she gradually built into the resonant space a forest of small trees, like those found on the staffage of model trains. The composer is fascinated by the communication of the trees, which takes place invisibly under the ground, and thus found an adequate realization of visualization. In addition to sounds, it is above all noises, such as a crackling and rattling, but also a hissing, wind noises or the buzzing of bees, which could be heard alongside repetitively descending bass lines, but also small snippets of melody. After the construction of the artificial forest was finished, the performer took care of a live video recording, which was projected on the large screen behind the orchestra. The task that the composer had set for this concert, to give a voice to nature in the concert hall, was actually audibly and visibly realized by her in this setting.
Madli Marje Gildemann is interested in nocturnal birds and tried to empathize with these animals while observing them. In her composition “Nocturnal Migrants,” she creates a hovering sound that swells and diminishes and is repeated in similar but not the same execution. A panicked chirping betrays doom at one point in the composition, as does a very darkly colored part that emerges in the bass of the piano after the bird scares. The basic tenor is dominated by an excitement, a permanent tension that only subsides when the music dies away at the end of the composition. Her work deals with the attraction of light, which is exerted on birds and can ultimately have fatal consequences. However, she herself describes this “as a metaphor for the impulsive and compulsive behaviors of people…who have little idea of the motives that drive them.”
“if left to soar on winds wings” by Karen Power was created alongside the Klangforum’s live part from recorded sounds the composer has collected around the globe. She prefers to go to places with few people, only to discover time and again that there are no places left in the world where people have not already been and left their traces. What can be heard everywhere as a constant is wind – albeit in different forms. It is also this natural phenomenon that can be heard right at the beginning of their composition. Chirping sounds and birdsong also appear in her work, but the defining element remains the wind, which can even be attributed the function of a basso continuo. “Like many of my works, “…if left to soar on winds wings…” asks each performer and audience member to hear all sounds simply as music we have never heard before. I ask us all to open our ears and reconnect with our environment as something that unites us rather than divides us, and to reconsider our power and influence over all that surrounds us.” – Karen Power said in her statement, which can be read in the program booklet.
The performance of “Exercises in Estrangement II – L’animal que donc je suis” by Sandeep Bhagwati proved original.
The ensemble was allowed to move choreographically on stage, finding each other in ever new constellations. Kneeling at the beginning, but then striding or turning around their own axis, the musicians offered not only auditory but also visual fodder in their actions. The starting point for the work was a book by Jacques Derrida, in which he explores the close connections between animals and humans. The musicians repeatedly slipped into the role of different animals and communicated with each other constantly. Combined with recorded voices, some of whose text was deliberately unintelligible, the result was an animal-human-auditory mesh whose individual components no longer formed a focal point. Bird calls, elephants roaring, or cicadas chirping, all this could be heard with the help of the implementation of individual instruments, but also active voice use.
The second part of the evening saw the Schallfeld Ensemble perform “My fake plastic love” by Sehyung Kim, Dune by Carlo Elia Praderio and Katharina Klements “Monde II”. The latter work experienced a kind of “historical performance practice” with two repaired mixing machines, since these two had already been used in an earlier work by Klement.
Due to great similarities, or rather, great affinities in parts of the compositions, the programming of this concert sequence may be called very coherent in itself. All of them were characterized by recurring clusters of sound as well as an opposing decay. Sehyung Kim works with different timbres of the instruments and towards the end with increasingly narrow intervals. Praderio’s composition was experienced as minimalist-contemplative and dark in overall impression. Klement employs frequent bell sounds in contrast to the noises of the mixing machines. Electronic recordings expand her sonic cosmos, which is also characterized by recurring passages.
A concert evening filled to bursting point, which offered something new, but also the opportunity to draw comparisons between individual compositions.