Francesconi: Herzstück (2012) by Heiner Müller
Written for the Neue Vocalsolisten (ECLAT 2012) and dedicated to Christine Fischer, Herzstück is a work for vocal ensemble to a text by Heiner Müller, the author from whom Luca Francesconi adapted the libretto of his opera Quartett.
for vocal ensemble ‘on the original text by Heiner Müller’
Commissioned by Eclat-Stuttgart for the Neue Vocalsolisten
Dedicated: to Christine Fischer – with a special grazie to Hans-Peter Jahn
WP: Stuttgart, Festival Eclat, 11 February 2012 - Neue Vocalsolisten
Peruse the score on nkoda
Today the exploration of the space of the text, vaguely anarchic and surrealist, which sustained so many of the vocal works of the historical avant-garde, is no longer enough.
In the 60s and 70s there emerged with considerable force a possible play of deconstruction, fed by serialism, which sought to separate the parameters of the linguistic system in order to investigate and regenerate the relations possible between them. This unleashed a huge amount of creative energy, but many random processes revealed themselves to be sterile or resulted in mannerisms.
In the same way, we might say, that an exclusive use of phonemes or, alternatively, of a Brechtian narrator represent mere subterfuges to ward off the problem of the relationship between the sound of the word and sense.
The great change today, compared to our fathers, is that there is no longer a solid threshold of meaning that we can cross or even deconstruct: a clear confine in sense before or after the word has disappeared.
The multi-form sonority from which human words are generated is no longer clearly distinct from the noise of the world.
“Wear” was the word Sanguineti used in “Laborintus II” (1965).
The negative expectations that that generation had seem to have evolved in an even more negative direction.
Because it is the word itself that has become noise. There is no longer a component of noise to isolate and recontextualise analytically. The word itself is noise: its sense has been lost.
The violent and ever-increasing saturation of information that has submerged us for more than 20 years has not just devastated every order of merit, of quality, but also the very attribution of a shared meaning.
Worse still, all trace has vanished of any possible sacrality of the word itself, of its mysterious tie – as sound – with the resonance of the world.
Everything is the same as everything else, that’s how it seems now.
The topos, literally the place, the social environment where a word, a gesture or even a habit can share a common meaning is fragmenting and multiplying into a vast number of tiny niches so atomised and subject to such constant mutation that in the end they are becoming individual: a world of virtual references which cannot really be shared with anyone else: not a community but a mass of single entities.
We might even smile when we think of the quasi-naïve faith thanks to which our fathers allowed themselves to play with “etrangements” (estrangements), (think of Berio’s A-Ronne (1974)), assuming a culture common to that of the bourgeois concert hall audience. But who today is able to recognise a citation in German from Marx’s Capital, or from Genesis in Latin or to play elegantly with strange associations between music and gesture?
Do we really believe that a young raver is capable of discerning and re-associating emotive states that have no direct link with fear or anger? Or of savouring the relations between the denotative and connotative functions in a citation of a chorale by Bach?
The levelling of all qualities is incredibly crude, violent and stark.
Obviously we can perceive this as a failure, as the total decadence of a civilisation, who knows?
Perhaps we are still anchored to a mass of, to far too many, comfortable certainties.
Rather than interact with an archive of archaeological dogmas, it is more stimulating to accept the challenge and to use a text. That at least is what Berio did. Seeking to find a path amidst its semantic implications. This endless short-circuit takes on life with music.
I am convinced that it is indispensable to explore language beyond the phoneme, inside its semantic and “sacred” matrixes, with man in flesh and blood in the world. Because we are losing them.
Listen to the recording