Enno Poppe’s new work Rundfunk
for nine synthesizers is a declaration of love to the medium of radio, which, as the birthplace of electronically generated sounds, had a decisive influence on New Music in its present form. Quite logically, the premiere took place at South-West German Radio’s (SWR) 2018 Donaueschingen Festival (Musiktage), launching a festival tour that will take in eight cities in five countries through next summer. In collaboration with ensemble mosaik, Enno Poppe’s Rundfunk
is being presented at, among others, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Eight Bridges | Music for Cologne, and the Festival d’Automne à Paris.
for 9 synthesizers
WP: 20.10.2018, Donaueschingen
Co-commissioned by Südwestrundfunk, Wien Modern, hcmf// Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Acht Brücken | Musik für Köln, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, and musica viva des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Donaueschinger Musiktage –
Wien Modern –
huddersfield contemporary music festival –
Bates Mill Blending Shed, Huddersfield
rainy days 2018 –
Festival d'Automne à Paris –
Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris
Ultraschall Berlin 2019 –
Festival Eight Bridges | Music for Cologne –
Funkhaus Wallrafplatz, Cologne
musica viva –
Studio 1/BR Funkhaus, Munich
Interview with Enno Poppe
Listen to the WDR recording of the world premiere
Rundfunk starting at 00:53:30
Enno Poppe’s Rundfunk
is the most successful by far, not just at filling the whole 60 minutes but also at justifying the length through purposeful dramaturgy. The musicians of ensemble mosaik under the composer’s direction (and, amusingly, all wearing tops in his hair colour) exchanged their usual instruments for synthesizers, on which they work with historic sound material from computers and keyboards of the 1960s and 70s. Out of these sounds, Poppe creates his new music. It begins with points of varying sound character clustered around a single pitch to form a harmony-like depth between the differing character groups rather than between classical chords. The clusters dissolve into a flatter texture made out of the same atomistic building blocks. Layered pedal points introduce a new formal section. The composition traces an extended arc of tension which, however, can be perceived in detail if one’s concentration can be sustained over the slow development.
The nostalgic new piece by Enno Poppe requires no fewer than 18 hands; it is called Rundfunk
and is guided by the composer from the keyboard, with ensemble mosaik on eight additional keyboards. An epically overflowing symphony, for which classic electronic sounds from the 1960s and 70s are rediscovered on the computer and assembled as a sensually and pianistically reconditioned colossus, with an eccentric gestural language but architecturally static: one block grows out of the other as old familiar faces nod to us. Only, to what purpose? “The moment I stop understanding what’s happening, art emerges,” Poppe explains, while issuing a watchword, for himself as well: “The beauty lies in being overburdened".
And especially the virtuosically polyphonic piece titled Rundfunk
, composed for nine synthesizers by Enno Poppe which, although pure electronic music, is nonetheless a symphony in three movements. It begins tonally with a sequence of similar intervals, which are gradually layered in three and four voices, in certain phases up to nine voices, evoking a chorus of doorbells in a high-rise. There is a terroristic intermezzo, with machine-gun fire, doors being opened and ceilings collapsing, but it ends well with a gleaming organ chorale and the typically organistic figures of fugue and passacaglia. One is exhausted but amused. This music can be experienced like a film or a Bruckner parody. It has an anecdotal appeal and is not intimidating.
DIE ZEIT, 24.10.2018
Rundfunk, world premiere at Donaueschingen, 2018
About the work
Without broadcasting, new music wouldn’t exist as it does today. The invention and development of electronic music in the studios of the public broadcasting services led to some magical moments of a medium that aimed to interrogate its own possibilities and requirements. Radio stations were even willing to support specialised institutes. These days the medium has changed to being a news provider and entertainer. In the field of electronic music there has been rapid technical development for decades. Just as rapid is the fading of those same new technologies. Often, earlier pieces can no longer be performed today because the required technologies went missing or don’t work anymore, or performers simply don’t know how things were done 25 years ago. Since up-to-date technology is always the one that works best, sound aesthetics turn out to be extremely time-related. Therefore the creation of pop music pieces can be meticulously determined by a specific preset of the DX-7 or a certain software tool. Composing means taking apart. In Rundfunk
(Broadcast) for nine synthesisers I don’t use historic instruments but historic sounds. The instruments are nine computers and nine keyboards. The sounds are from the 60s and 70s: FM synthesis, Minimoog, Piganino. Their pioneers are Gottfried Michael Koenig, Thomas Kessler, John Chowning, Wendy Carlos, and Tangerine Dream. No original instruments are being used but only computer generated reproductions, everything sounds different than it would have done in their day. I have all of the sounds at my fingertips at any time. I can play back any number of parts and I can switch between tunings freely and constantly. The sound is being reconstructed and put back together in new ways. The performers aren’t keyboard virtuosos, by the way, but virtuosos in the handling of electronic sounds in general. The piece consists of thousands of atoms. The music is analytic and emphatic. It’s being compounded in a laboratory. While composing I am wearing a white lab coat. A concert is not an experiment, however. The moment I stop understanding what’s happening, art emerges. The beauty lies in being overburdened.
Rundfunk, world premiere at Donaueschingen, 2018
Score of Rundfunk
Photos: Astrid Karger, Ralf Brunner