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“Always compose in such a way that the listener is not sidelined. Music reflects social reality; its stance and attitude must always be defined afresh.” These maxims for artistic activity are the result of a socio-critical engagement that goes all the way back to Heiner Goebbels’s student days. He still remains true to it today. His latest project, "When the Mountain Changed Its Clothing", to be premiered at the Bochum Centenary Hall on the 26th September 2012 as part of the RuhrTriennale, deals with political and social changes in the region, from which the protagonists of this music theatre work are drawn. According to the festival publicity, the work “has as its theme the turmoil experienced by 40 girls, aged 10-20, from Maribor’s “Carmina Slovenica”. They confront us with stories and questions about farewelling their childhood […] Swinging between supremacy and repression, the young singers pass through the cycle of the seasons, constantly rebalancing power relationships – amongst themselves, but above all between audience and stage.[…] Together with the singers and the artistic team, Heiner Goebbels develops a scenario in which the girls constantly sway between a cliché of childlike innocence, and unpredictability.”
This production makes use not only of music by Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schönberg, Karmina Šilec, Sarah Hopkins and Heiner Goebbels, but also texts by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Joseph Eichendorff, Adalbert Stifter, Gertrude Stein, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marlene Haushofer, Marina Abramović, and Ian McEwan. Staging and lighting are in the hands of Klaus Grünberg, Florence von Gerkan has designed the costumes, and the artistic director of the„”Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica“ is Karmina Šilec.
The premiere production will make guest appearances in Graz (12. and 13.10.), Maribor (16.10.), Paris (25.-27.10.), Brussels (4.-6.5.2013), Luxemburg (10. and 11.5.2013), Hannover (21. and 22.6.2013) and Amsterdam (25. and 26.6.2013).
Just as Heiner Goebbels has no inhibitions about drawing on the most diverse resources of cultural and music history, placing all kinds of things he finds in new contexts, sometimes changing them so that they are barely recognisable, so he remains obsessively determined to use them to create original, characteristic stage happenings that enrich listeners/viewers both intellectually and emotionally. For decades, Goebbels has succeeded, like almost no other creative artist, in avoiding falling into old habits. To start with, he revolutionised the Hörspiel (radiophonic) genre, taking words, sentences and plot threads apart, though not to create a purely linguistic art: rather, his radiophonic processes were, increasing decisively, musically motivated: words, fragments of sentences and ways of speaking are compositional materials, on the same footing as notes, sonorities and noises. Goebbels quickly became a figurehead for radio art and Hörspiel, and gained every international prize associated with this genre. But even so, he didn’t stand still.
His ability not to regard the given order of things as unalterable predestined him to take an active interest in how music is presented to a concert audience. Only rarely does he make use of conventional concert situations: most of Heiner Goebbels’s compositions have eminently narrative, theatrical qualities. In "Surrogate Cities", a work consisting of eight episodes, performance aspects such as lighting and the use of microphones is already exactly fixed. From here, it’s just a small step to his ‘compositional-staging concept’, where pieces are neither pure music theatre nor pure concert pieces. Here the musician is back onstage as an actor. But – and this is both simple and a stroke of genius – he doesn’t have to pretend to be anything but a musician. "Schwarz auf Weiß" (Black on White), initially written for Ensemble Modern, has been very successfully performed by these musicians across the world for sixteen years (and has since undergone an adaptation for the Czech Berg Orchestra). Building on these experiences, recent years have constantly seen the creation of compositions for so-called ‘staged concerts’, always attuned to the properties and abilities of particular ensembles:: "...même soir.- (...the same evening.-)" for Les Percussions de Strasbourg, "Songs of Wars I Have Seen"on texts by Gertrude Stein for The London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightement, and "I went to the house but did not enter" for the Hilliard Ensemble.
A step towards the operatic genre (albeit without operatic plots) came in 2002 with Heiner Goebbels’s full-length "Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten", based on texts and ideas by Giordano Bruno, Arthur Chapman/Estelle Philleo, T.S. Eliot, Francois Fénelon, Michel Foucault, Katharina Fritsch, Claude Lorrain, Henri Michaux, Nicolas Poussin, Max Reger, Gertrude Stein, Diego Velázquez, Leonardo da Vinci and Sisley Xshafa. Here, once again, the essential starting point was intense and extended collaboration with the versatile musicians of Ensemble Modern, who appeared onstage as instrumentalists/actors, reinforced by a mixed chorus, a singer (Georg Nigl) and an actor (David Bennent). Collage techniques, extended playing techniques, quotations from folk music, jazz and children’s songs, non-European instruments, documentary text recordings, and elements of installation art: all these and more become potential means of expression in the context of Goebbels’s music theatre. Both things that are musically original and new, and quotations from historical and non-European music, are placed in meaningful new contexts that seek to ensure that even an audience knowing little about New Music will basically understand them, ensuring a continuing, intense and enduring theatrical and musical experience. The worldwide success enjoyed by his work speaks for itself.
On the occasion of his 60th birthday on August 17th 2012.we trust that this history of success for Heiner Goebbels will continue for a long time, in the form of many highly diverse projects. Hearty congratulations!