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Wüthrich, Hans

Ah! Vous voilà! (scene 4 from „HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus”) · [1994-97]
for two women and two men (four figures from theatre works of the classical French modern)
Texts: Jean Anouilh, Jean-Paul Sartre, Henri de Montherlant
4 Act/str.
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 10’
TME 0913 // *Stud.-P. / Sti.

Annäherungen an Gegenwart · [1986-87]
for string quartet
2 vl. vla. vc.
World Premiere: 1987, Basel
Duration: 18’
MMV 5368 // Partitur / Sti. / *Stud.-P.

Chopin im TGV Basel-Paris, die Sonne betrachtend · [1989]
for flute, violin and piano
fl. vl. pf.
World Premiere: 02/1990, Basel
Duration: 6’
TME 3005 // *Spiel-P.

Das Glashaus · [1974-75]
for six speakers, soprano, percussion and recording tape
6 Sp. Sop. perc. tape
World Premiere: 1977, Basel
Duration: 23’
MMV 5376 // *Partitur / Sti. / Tontr.

Die singende Schnecke [The Singing Snail] · [1979]
Ein Konzept [A Concept]. Anweisungen zum imaginären Hören.
[Instructions for imaginary listening.]
I. Das Vorgegebene [The Actuality]; II. Das projizierende Hören [Projective Hearing]; III. Beispiele für verbale Anweisungen [Examples for Verbal Instructions]
Text: Hans Wüthrich (dt., engl.)
ISBN 978-3-937087-00-9
World Premiere: 1979, Zürich
Duration: variabel
TME 0602 // *Broschüre

Drei psychophysikalische Symbole · [2002-03]
for two guitars
I. Bierbläschen in schmalem Glas; II. Nervenblitze; III. fractal fatal
2 git.
World Premiere: 29.12.2004, Baden (CH)
Duration: 9’
TME 0672 // *Spiel-P.

Estelle + D. R. (Scene 7 from „HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus”) · [1994-97]
for two swinging life-size dolls, one women’s coat and one men’s coat, a women’s bag, a man’s suitcase and cassette players 
6 assistants (dolls. props). cass.
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 7’
TME 0906 // *Stud.-P. / Sti.

Glühende Übergänge in Rot, Orange und leuchtendem Blau · [1998-99]
for voice ensemble and two keyboards (or CD playback)
3 S. 3. A. 3 T. 3 B. / 2 keyb (or playback-CD).
World Premiere: 18.2.2000, Basel
Duration: 14’
TME 0439 // Partitur / Sti. / *Stud.-P. / Tontr.

Happy Hour. Szene (Scene 8 from „HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus”) · [1995-96]
11 singers/speakers, one waiter and one percussionist 
Text: Hans Wüthrich
11 voices (party guests). Act (waiter). pf. (Barkeeper)
World Premiere: 31.1.1998 , Basel
Duration: 20’
TME 0903 // *Stud.-P. / *Spiel-P. / Sti.

HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus · [1994-97]
music theatre for 12 singers/speakers, two keyboards, percussion and objects 
Text: see individual scenes
12 voices
2 keyb. perc. objects.
Eight scenes, can also be performed individually
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 60’
TME 0914 // *Partitur / Sti.

L’Être et le néant (Scene 5 from „HAPPY HOUR: Zyklus”) · [1994-97]
for three chickens, caretaker and violin
3 chickens. caretaker. vl.
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 7’
TME 0904 // *Stud.-P. / Sti.

LEVE · [1992]
16 scenes with three women, three men and objects
Text: Fernando Pessoa, Hans Wüthrich
S. Ms. A. T. 2 act.
Helpers I, II, III (extras), 2-3 Technicians
World Premiere: 1993, Basel
Duration: 40’
TME 0901 // *Partitur

Netz-Werk I · [1983-84]
for large orchestra without conductor 
4. 3. 4. 4. / 4. 3. 4. 1. / hp. 4 perc. / 18. 0. 6. 6. 6.
World Premiere: 1988, Zürich
Duration: 12’
MMV 5369 // Partitur / Sti. / *Stud.-P.

Netz-Werk II · [1984-85]
for large orchestra without conductor
4. 2. 4. 2. / 2. 4. 1. 0. / 7. 0. 4. 4. 4.
World Premiere: 1988, Zürich
Duration: 10’
MMV 5370 // Partitur / Sti. / *Stud.-P.

Netz-Werk III · [1987-89]
for large orchestra without conductor
3. 2. 2. 2. / 4. 2. 2. 1. / hp. 4 perc. / 18. 0. 5. 6. 4.
World Premiere: 1989, Basel
Duration: 25’
MMV 5454 // Partitur / Sti. / Stud.-P.

O me nura (Scene 6 from „HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus”) · [1994-97]
for eight singers, two assistants, two keyboards (or playback-CD), life-size dolls and cassette-players in dark scenery with dark music
2 S. 2 A. 2 T. 2 B.
2 assistants (2 keyn (or playback CD). dolls. cass).
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 5’
TME 0908 // *Stud.-P. / Sti.

O miseria umana (Scene 1 from „HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus”) · [1994-97]
for vocal ensemble, two keyboards, objects and assistants 
Text: Leonardo da Vinci
2 S. 2 A. 2 T. 2 B.
2 Key. 2 assistants (perc. objects).
Enactment of Leonardo da Vinci’s pen drawing “Ihr elenden Menschen, wie vieler Dinge wegen macht ihr euch dem Geld zum Sklaven!”
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 8’
TME 0905 // *Stud.-P. / Sti.

Orte der Zeit 1 (Scene 2 from „HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus”) · [1994-97]
for three actors/singers, walking backwards whilst reciting a poem backwards 
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 5’
TME 0909 // *Stud.-P. / Sti.

Orte der Zeit 2 (ex libris) (Scene 3 from „HAPPY HOUR. Zyklus”) · [1994-97]
for actors, small table and old books that „quietly“ breathe
World Premiere: 1998, Basel
Duration: 5’
TME 0907 // *Stud.-P. / Sti.

Peripherie und Mitte · [2011] 
for two percussionists and live electronics
2 perc. live-el.
World Premiere: 1.10.2011, Fribourg (CH)
Duration: 18’
TME 3437 // Partitur / Live-El.

Requiem für Gulliver · [1972-73]
for orchestra, four voices and tape
Text: Hans Wüthrich
S. A. T. Bar. tape.
World Premiere: 1973, Basel
Duration: 13’
TME 0673 // Partitur / Sti. / Tontr.

Sky, Seated Man / Seated Woman, Train, Garden-Pool. Cut. · [1993]
six ciphers for 8 solo voices and two keyboards ad. lib.
8 voices
2 Key (ad lib).
World Premiere: 1994, Perugia
Duration: 2’
TME 3007 // *Spiel-P.

Walser Arabien · [2002]
for soprano/mezzo soprano and piano
Text: Robert Walser
S (Ms). pf.
World Premiere: 18.3.2002 Chopin im TGV, Zürich
Duration: 3’
TME 0601 // *Partitur

Wörter Bilder Dinge · [1989-91]
for alto voice and string quartet 
Text: Artikel der Menschenrechtskonvention 1948, Hans Wüthrich
A. 2 vl. vla. vc.
World Premiere: 23.5.1991, Zürich
Duration: 22’
TME 3006 // *Spiel-P.

Zum Selbstbildnis von Leonardo da Vinci · [1978]
aria for voice and melodic instrument
Text: Hans Wüthrich
voice. fl (or ob. or. cl).
World Premiere: 1978, Donaueschingen
Duration: 2’
TME 1144 // *Partitur

Zwei Minuten gegen das Vergessen · [1994]
for piano 
World Premiere: März 1995, Basel
Duration: 2’
TME 3009 // *Partitur

Zwei Minuten gegen das Vergessen · [1994]
version for string trio
World Premiere: 29.10.1994, Berlin
Duration: 2’
TME 3010 // *Spiel-P.

Zwölf Phasen eines Cocons und fünf dynamische Kreuze · [2004-06]
for ten instrumentalists 
fl. cl. bsax. trb. pf. perc. vl. vla. vc. db.
World Premiere: 2006, Rümlingen
Duration: 14’
TME 0810 // *Partitur / Sti.
3.8.1937 Aeschi / Switzerland † 20.03.2019 Arlesheim / Switzerland

Hans Wuthrich was born into a farming family and only started getting into serious contact with music at the age of 16. He graduated from teacher training college in Muristalden in Berne (1952-56), and then studied at the Conservatoire in Berne Sava Savoff (piano) as well as Sándor Veress (music theory) before graduating with a diploma in piano in 1962.

He received support and motivation from Klaus Huber, with whom he took lessons in composition from 1968 to 1972, initially in Basel and later in Freiburg/Br. Huber impressed upon him above all else, the uncompromising attitude of "getting right to the bottom of things in order to reach one’s extreme mental boundaries" (1988). At the same time, Wüthrich studied German language and literature, philosophy and musicology at the University of Zurich. In 1973 he graduated with his doctorate about "The official German language’s consonant system".

In 1974 he founded the ensemble "mixt media basel", which is specifically devoted to works in the grey area between music and theater. From 1971 to 1985 he was a lecturer in linguistics at the Universities of Zurich and Basel,. From 1985 to 2002 he was lecturer for music theory, analysis and ear training at the Musikhochschule Winterthur-Zurich. Since 2002 he had been freelance. He lived in Arlesheim (CH) and Murg-Oberdorf (Germany).

Photo: Claire Niggli

Composing Outside the Norms: Hans Wüthrich 

It’s only more cowardly composers (…) who develop a personal style by the age of thirty, and then do what the old masters did too: they stick to the same method till retirement. 
- Mathias Spahlinger 

The standard explanations don’t work: the principle of cause and effect doesn’t apply, nor does the discourse (usually regarded as sensible enough) about a personal compositional history. The oeuvre of Hans Wüthrich is a succession of surprises, of leaps, that defy any logical, straight-line discussion. Style has become problematic: Mathias Spahlinger points that out bluntly and trenchantly. At any rate, with Wüthrich the sceptic, the collapse of style assumes drastic forms. It’s true that he doesn’t basically distrust his own paths. But he subjects himself to constant scrutiny. 

Politics, communication, time and multimedia: these are the poles between which most of Hans Wüthrich’s works are located. Imaginative verbal games can be found in the conceptually and compositionally astonishing Wörter Bilder Dinge for contralto and string quartet (1989/91). Wüthrich, who earlier studied literary and linguistic theory, translates individual articles from the 1948 Geneva Convention of Human Rights into Egyptian hieroglyphics, and then translates the pictures back into Italian, German, French and English. Wüthrich has these words intoned in a sort of slow-motion articulation. Language is stretched to bursting point, while the strings follow these painful events. All pitches are derived from the formants of the resultant vowels. 

“So the words are freed from the trivial, stale business of language, made larger than life through clear, overstretched pronunciation, and thus brought into direct, obtrusive proximity” (from the preface to the score). Wüthrich’s barbs can be directed not only towards ‘stale’ linguistic usage, but also against authoritarian structures. Born in 1937, in Swiss Aeschi, he has evolved various socio-musicological models whose critical spirit very much connects with the politically highly-charged atmosphere of the 60s and 70s, and finds its most drastic expression in composers like Vinko Globokar. In the series of works Netzwerk I-III (1982; 1985; 1987/89), Wüthrich has the orchestra play without a conductor. He really takes the gloves off with self-monitoring complicated constructs. His complex cybernetic systems – already put to the test in the Kommunikationsspielen for any ensemble from 1973 – result in an “autonomous, quasi-social organism” (Thomas Meyer). 

What fascinated Wüttrich about his former teacher Klaus Huber was his attitude of “going to the heart of things, to their extreme intellectual limits”. What impressed him in Dieter Schnebel was the latter’s “audacity, faced by every prejudice, to do and permit whatever one thought was right.” What Wüthrich has in common with Schnebel and Mauricio Kagel is a crossing of multimedia boundaries, and intellectual pleasure in playfulness. In Leve. 16 Szenen mit drei Frauen, drei Männern und Objekten (1992, based on texts by Fernando Pessoa and the composer, there is a scene where drops from infusion bottles, electronically amplified, bounce off various materials. The speed of the drops gradually increases, quickly resulting in a striking visual and acoustic counterpointing of different temporal processes. 

On dealing with time: naturally music is the temporal art per se. But Hans Wüthrich deals explicitly with durations and processes, and seeks to make the listener very consciously aware of this. The slow-motion articulations in Wörter Bilder Dinge exemplify this, as do the ‘stills’ from Happy Hour, music theatre for twelve singers/speakers, two keyboards percussion and objects (1994-97) that drives the mindless behaviour of a party society exhausted by work to absurd extremes. In the second movement of Chopin im TGV Basel-Paris, die Sonne betrachtend, for flute, violin and piano (1989) one encounters once again a radical reduction of speed, though this is offset by a scurrying first movement. Incessantly, the violin and flute churn out a quarter-tone-tinged chain of triplets that ultimately just breaks off (in a manner reminiscent of Wüthrich’s like-minded compatriot Urs Peter Schneider) 

From 2004 to 2006, the near-70-year-old penned Zwölf Phasen eines Cocons und fünf dynamische Kreuze for ten instrumentalists. Once again Wüthrich, who says of himself that he starts “every piece from more or less degree zero”, seems to have re-invented his musical language. In this case the model was the micro-organisms that multiply in a cocoon. The piece begins slowly, even doggedly. Individual notes interlock, forming an almost impenetrable mass of sound. Bit by bit, the complexity increases, and the network of relationships becomes denser. Here, in this composition created for the Swiss Rümlingen Festival, there is the kind of straight-line development that listeners to Wüthrich’s music are usually denied. The exception to the rule – this pervades thye Hand Wüthrich phenomenon at every level. 

Torsten Möller (2012) · English Translation: Richard Toop