Speech for the 50th Anniversary of Aarhus Unge Tonekunstnere (2016)

for orchestra with speaker or tape, programme note, no conductor, approx. 7'

The concept of "Speech" is of radical openness: the musicians are free to do whatever they like to do, meanwhile a speech is given. Neither the conductor nor me the composer are telling the musicians what to do. They can, however, choose to play a composed part; a unison. Speech aims at making the composer unnecessary and giving back the power to the individual musician.

Letter to the musician

 

Dear musician,

in this piece, I am asking you to switch places with me. Instead of a fixed notation-score, I am giving you the task to decide, what action you would like to perform on stage as part of this piece – and then perform it meanwhile I'll be giving the speech. You are the composer of your part and can decide freely, what you'll be doing during the duration of the piece. I am well aware that you didn't sign up for this, and that this task might put you in an unusual and awkward situation. So why am I still asking you to do it? As I am stating in the speech (you can find a transcript of it in this booklet), I am utterly disturbed by the direction political discussions today often take: to maintain the achieved democratic standards (which are so often confused with the wealth of the Western countries), demagogues of all professions and across the aisles propose and conduct actions that effectively mean abolishing the rights that constitute the very character of our democracies: freedom of speech and thought, freedom of justice, minority rights and so on. I find it hard, not to relate to this in my work. So I am thinking of this piece as a political action; quite literally, not metaphorically. The level of freedom in the Western world is unprecedented. This isn't to say, that our political systems are perfect, nor that we aren't supporting dictators and benefiting from unjust regimes, nor that inequality doesn't exist. But the rights Western democracies – at least on paper – grant their citizens, are worth fighting for. Which isn't easy, because both the constant confrontation with the unknown and insecurity come with the democratic system. Democracy means challenging yourself and respecting who or what challenges you – without leaving the common ground of basic human and democratic rights. Freedom comes with insecurity, there is no way around it. Speech is meant to be a demonstration of basic individual freedom and the paradoxical limitations that go along with it. However, I am not only ordering you to do whatever you like. I am offering you a choice. If you do not wish to follow the order of doing whatever you like to do, or, if what you like to do is following orders, then I have composed a part for you which you'll find in the appendix. Think of this part as a piece within the piece. Or think of it as an election – if you choose „my“ version of the piece, you are supporting the traditional concept of music-making. The parts I have written are not totally traditional though, and I will disclose, that they together form a unison. Effectively, this means, the more musicians choose this more traditional way, the more obvious this decision will be to the audience; and the result maybe less interesting. So I would very much like to encourage you to contribute to the piece in the most creative, beautiful, radical, sensual, playful way possible. The only limitations are loudness (I'd like the actual speech to be understood by the audience) and your sense of responsibility. Be aware that all other musicians have the same task, too (you might consider collective actions as well) and that not taking part and not choosing either option is an option, too. However difficult this task may be - either way, you can't do anything wrong. Last but not least, this is a piece on control and powerlessness, and the relationship between the composer as authority and the musician as a (willing) submissive subject. By giving you the paradoxical instruction to take control of your own role, I am inverting the traditional relationship between composer and musicians, thus hoping to reveal the strange ambiguity of the orchestra as both an outstanding form of collective organisation and a dictatorial regime of composers and/or conductors. I hope to spark thoughts on the way that we organise both music and life.

 

Respectfully, Mathias Monrad Møller, July 2016

Commissioned by Aarhus Unge Tonekunstnere and premiered by Aarhus Symfoniorkester on the 7th of October, 2016 19:30 at Musikhuset Aarhus

Die Gedanken sind frei (2016)

folk song setting for six voices (SSATBarB), 2'50''

The well-known German folk song "Die Gedanken sind frei" (The thoughts are free) is combined with a socialist song from the Spanish Civil War. 

commissioned and first performed by Bolongaro-Sextett, Frankfurt am Main