Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Landmarks (21)

Walter Zimmermann: Lokale Musik (1977-81). A collection of pieces (from solos and chamber music through large orchestra), a project about the "manifold relationships between landscape and music", a private (autobiographical and psychological) and public (historical and social) working out (the German is better: Ausarbeitung) of those relationships in a particular -- and particularly complex -- landscape, that of Zimmermann's native Franconia. The source musical materials are traditional Franconian dances -- Walzer, Zwiefache, Schottisch, Mazurka, Rheinländer, Galopp, etc. -- collected by the composer in the course of fieldwork in rural Franconia. This is a musical corpus that was largely collected and notated in the 19th century, and has been played by instrumentalists for generations from notation, and as such is a repertoire in which the tension between a "cultivated" and an oral/folk music tradition is ever-present. The long-cultivated fields and over-managed forests of rural Germany carry precisely the same tension, and more recent history of Germany, in particular of Nuremberg and Franconia, under National Socialism, during the war, and through the decidely mixed working-out of history in the post-war environment (Zimmermann was born in 1949), casts an added shadow. Zimmermann's project is to listen beyond and behind these shadows, to recover the landscape through the prism of this music. His techniques are astonishly simple: removing tonally- and metrically-significant pitches from melodies, or having a pair instruments play tones whose difference tones articulate the traditional dance tunes , thus playing a melody by not playing the melody. His techniques are similar to those Cage used at about the same time to create new music by erasing parts of older music, in particular the syntax-driving cadential features (Cage used Revolutionary-era American music).

Lokale Music is a landmark, not only as a remarkable body of music, but as a model of a composing as a project that connects the musical to the historical, ethnological, social and psychological, and one in which these connections are never musically trivial.

1 comment:

Beginner said...

On Stage and off by Deborah Richards (aus“Reisen mit & für Walter”zum
50.Geburtstag, Seite 96)

We musicians were standing around outside the school gymnasium in Darmstadt, most of us waiting to perform the intricate, ephemeral ensemble pieces that comprise Walter's extensive cycle LOKALE MUSIK. The audience had been amazingly hostile during my part in it, but I now infiltrated them because I wanted to hear the other pieces. From within the audience some French dudes started throwing paper airplanes and being generally rowdy. They thought they knew what was politically “correct” and they were behaving as if this were nazi music (without in fact even bothering to listen to it!). Backstage Walter had remained cheerful and supportive throughout, even joking about the situation. But in my row inside the hall Wolfgang Rihm and Helmut Lachenmann now began to make warning gestures toward the young Frenchmen, hoping to silence them or at least to prevent them from throwing their paper planes. When Helmut took off his shoe and began waving it in a threatening manner, it looked like as if we were heading toward a brawl ... What would have happened if Wolfgang hadn't so quickly succeeded in restraining Helmut and calming him down? And if he hadn't been waving his shoe around would those jerks ever have stopped? How could the musicians concentrate through all this hullaballoo and did Walter know what was happening out here? Although this may well have been the most undignified performance to date, after listening to the rest of the concert, I was quite proud to have taken part in LOKALE MUSIK - both on stage und off!