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Composer Jörg Widmann: About the difficulty of producing sound

img  Tobias

From the footage contained in „und es wird Klang“, „In the Beginning“ already has all the appearance of turning into a classic. Working intensely and with tangible enthusiasm, Kiefer has translated the recognisable textural depth and unease of his paintings into a biblical doomsday-landscape filled with characters who are going through mysterious routines without taking notice of the audience. Widmann was impressed by Kiefer's production technique of starting out with a plethora of colours and then eliminating them one by one to arrive at his typical minimalist planes of grey. Both had an instant hunch what Widmann's task needed to be: To create a very quiet and subcutaneous sound with a huge orchestra in order to make that silence palpable. As a result, „In the Beginning“ hums and drones in the most ethereal and ephemeral splendour, resulting in an overtone-opus of both enormous and fleeting dimensions, which no one involved wants to call an opera outright („A work“ is what Kiefer simply refers to it). Even though Jörg Widmann has turned into one of the most frequently played composers of our time, not all that much of his music has been recorded yet – this, for sure, would be one of the pieces to put on the list.

Despite his prolific output, Widmann also comes across as someone who invests a lot of thought into whether to say something musically or not. Speaking about his first String Quartet, the writing of which was something of a self-torture to him, he says: „I didn't even notate the first bars. I wrote it in a way which indicates that the music should sound as though it were happening by coincidence. The sonic result of the musician's actions is nothing but a shy flageolette. There's a huge discrepancy between the energy invested and the actual result. And that's exactly what I felt like in the beginning – I just didn't feel as though I could just produce a normal tone.“ Thus, these first „shy“ notes contain the difficulty of beginning itself, of aligning oneself in a long and awe-inspiring tradition. After he had completed the first String Quartet, the remaining four volumes proved to be much easier to write: Widmann finished the cycle in 2005.

Afterwards, there was plenty of time for even more remarkable projects. Aside from the Kiefer-connection, Jörg Widmann was, for example, invited to Dubai along with three of his colleagues to put this cross-cultural and polytemporal metropolis to sound. Countering the notion of simply enriching his language with a couple of arabic scales, Widmann came to a completely different conclusion: In the heart of the desert, he realised the importance of his Bavarian origins and wrote music which alluded more to his position within this alien environment than to the environment itself. „Finding an idea is not a problem“, Widmann elucidates, „an idea is something wonderful. The difficulty begins after you've found it, after it has started to bud inside of me. I can tell how poison is seeping into it and how a contrary thought start developing. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had decided for a different direction at a particular junction. Really, that's a stupid idea of mine. Because, even by choosing one way, you can still think of the other one as you go. It's just that in the moment you've made a decision, it is final.“

The way it looks, there will still be plenty of opportunities for Jörg Widmann to turn those contrary thoughts into compelling music.

Homepage: Jörg Widmann

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