der komponist

For orchestra and computer (2015).

Philarmonie Zuidnederland conducted by Bas Wiegers.

In an interview given at the Ruhr Triennale in 2013, Helmut Lachenmann says:

“Der Komponist, finde ich, hat nicht was zu sagen. Komponist hat etwas zu machen und das was er macht wird viel mehr sagen als was er sagen könnte... sollte auch ihm selbst was sagen....”

“The composer, in my opinion, has nothing to say, the composer must make something, and whatever he makes, will say more than he himself should also say something to him”

The recording of Helmut Lachenmann uttering this sentence forms the sonic and conceptual spine of the work. The piece slowly scans through the contour of his voice as if it is being inspected under a microscope, and the basis of the material that the orchestra plays is derived from this procedure. As well as hearing this phrase spoken at normal speed, it is time-stretched throughout the whole 20 minutes of the work, using both a granular as well as a spectral time-stretching algorithm. This deconstruction of the voice fluctuates between windows from barely milliseconds up to several seconds, picking out transients - resulting in cycles of instrumental timbre that are looping, contracting, expanding and dissolving. In this way the soundworld of the piece takes place within the microscopic grains of Lachenmann's voice, it follows the oscillations and micro-fluctuations of vocal utterance, as if emptied of language signification the physical mechanics of voice and language become the fabric of the compostion discourse.

Some of the techniques used in the piece are based on analyses of the voice that come from the technology of biometric “voice prints”, a subject that I have been exploration in recent work. Each phoneme and transient used in the phrase uttered by Lachenmann is analysed and spectrally transformed into the orchestral material. These spectral voice prints are used as building blocks to construct a musical commentary that has to do with both identity and communication; perhaps alluding to the question of “who or what is speaking in a musical work?”.

der komponist was commissioned to celebrate Helmut Lachenmann’s 80th birthday in 2015. It was performed in the presence of Helmut Lachenmann by the Philarmonie Zuidnederland, conducted by Bas Wiegers at the November Music Festival in 's-Hertogenbosch.