Texts

Lutz Glandien
WERGO, 1995 [booklet text]

The works presented on this CD mark important stages in evolution of Lutz Glandien‘s music up to and including autumn 1989. They exemplify what it was like to search for a musical language under the possibilities and restrictions imposed by the former state of East Germany upon living and studying, upon musical experience and artistic and ideological debate. At the same time, their stylistic variety notwithstanding, these compositions stand fully opposed to that particular current and aesthetic creed which Glandien, over the years, has found increasingly questionable for his own work: namely, the anonymous musical work of art, aimed at no one in particular and generally once within the self-gratifying 'feedback control system' of the New Music industry only to vanish into the debris of music history. This type of piece does little justice to what Glandien considers music´s primary raison d’être: it´s ability to communicate. To escape this dilemma, he has developed a musical language that conveys its meaning through a system of precise, highly expressive gestures, and has written a number of generally short pieces for specific occasions and performers among his circle of friends. As the composer once remarked in an interview: I don't write for instruments, I write for people who make music. In recent years, since the fall of the lron Curtain, his discontent with the relatively ineffectual art music industry has given rise to joint productions with the avantgarde rock drummer Chris Cutler or a combination of Cutler, Dagmar Krause, Fred Frith and Alfred Harth. Although our CD does not contain examples of this music, it is not unimportant to know that even in the works presented here Glandien's quest for a musical language was influenced stylistically by that same contradiction between composition and communication.

Glandien's urge to communicate is evidently the result of a background unusual even for an East German composer, and of musical experiences connected with that background. Born in the town of Oebisfelde, Altmark, in 1954, Glandien studies business management at Dresden Technical University in the late Seventies and early Eighties. During these years he also functioned as a composer, musician and actor in one of the country‘s most distinctive musical cabarets, the Dresden group "Schicht", an amateur ensemble that emerged from the German youth movement. Based in the Studio Theatre of Dresden's Kulturpalast, this group developed into a centre for socially critical and provocative art, culminating in multi-media "Lieder & Theater" workshops held annually from 1979 to 1983 for singing groups, folk balladeers, composers, photographers, painters, and makers of documentary and animated films.

In these Dresden years Glandien encountered a form of art that was direct and immediate in its impact. With "Schicht" he practiced precision of gesture and accuracy of expression, particularly in text-related music, long before he learned to appreciate these qualities as compositional devices in autonomous instrumental and electronic music. He was also encouraged in this regard by his teachers, Wolfram Heicking at the Hanns Eisler Musikhochschule in Berlin (1979–83) and Georg Katzer at the East German Academy of Art, where Glandien was a special pupil in 1985–87. Ultimately Glandien's experience with collage techniques and pre-recorded tape in "Schicht" had an impact on his compositional standards and ideals so formative that the complex contrapuntal and serial procedures he later 'acquired', or their varied derivatives, seemed useless for his own music, being more suitable for sophistication and refinement than for the accuracy and concentration of gesture he was seeking.

This accuracy of gesture had both a musical component and, in its defining features, an element of social relevance. Latent in Glandien's explicitness of expression is a potential for conflict that often reflects a critical stance toward the state of society, namely, toward that of the former German Democratic Republic. My music, as Glandien remarked in an interview given in September 1989, always emerges from a problem. When I compose, what I keep in the back of my mind most of all is not so much the progression of the music per se but rather that problem, the idea of how contradictions develop and where those developments lead. One might say that in my music I try to come to grips with a situation I experience all around me. In fact, it is never my goal to solve compositional problems pure and simple.

Seen in this light, three of the works on this CD form a group: es lebe [long live] for tuba and pre-recorded tape, weiter so [carry on] for pre-recorded tape and string quintet, and und war es noch still [and still it was quiet] for chamber ensemble. All three date from the year 1989. Musically, the first two outline a sort of negative drama to their jingoistic titles, wordlessly questioning and exposing idiological slogans and pointing out the demagoguery behind them. es lebe – 'long live' – was a popular opening for various catchphrases and banners in political demonstrations and parades: 'long live the German Democratic Republic! Long live Marxism-Leninism! Long live the Soviet Union! Long live ...' and so forth. The piece is based on a dialogue between live instruments and a pre-recorded tape which in turn draws on electro-acoustically manipulated instrumental sounds. Both 'parts' are fully written out, and are thus set down unambiguously in notation. The essential parameters of the work's design – timbre and rhythm – determine the gestural character and the dramatic structure of this two-section piece. Section 1 deals with the attempt by the tuba to develop a musical language. It elaborates the potential contrast between instrument and tape and pursues various opposite ways in which these two parts respond to each other in tempo, rhythm and timbre. Having begun, however, the dialogue soon stumbles and comes to a standstill. Fresh momentum is provided by all-too brisk bugle motifs in the tuba. These are sporadically offset by deep, muffled sounds in the tape, an attempt at mutual contact and interaction so clumsy as to border on the farcical. Not until Section 2, after striking repetitions and several unsuccessful rapprochements, do the two parts enter a sort of antiphony, a dialogue at first quite lively but soon aimless, leading the music ultimately to escalation and collapse. long live – long live what? The question is left unanswered. Yet even without this implicitly self-contradictory title (Glandien invents his titles only after the composition is finished), the conflictive material in the music is as unambiguous as its solution is impossible. Far from being extraneous, the conflict emerges from a compositional idea firmly grounded in a critical view of society.

In the immediate proximity of this work – not only temporally but also aesthetically – Glandien wrote his weiter so! [carry on!] for pre-recorded tape and string quintet. This piece, dedicated to Georg Katzer and likewise in a single movement, is no less precise and trenchant in its gestures, unveiling its meaning to the listener directly and without ornate displays of compositional technique. The piece opens with a jagged, militant gesture in the tape part, the acoustic material of which is based entirely on string timbres. This opening gesture is then developed processually and brought to a conclusion in confrontation with contrasting or derivative moods and postures. Here the tape ond string quintet adopt the functions of orchestra and solo strings in a 'concerto' in the original sense of the word – opposition. Rhythm, dynamics, dramatic layout, part writing and the manipulation of motif are all directed toward a single goal: to chisel out the developmental logic (or absence of same) hidden within these conflict-laden gestures, together with their musical consequences. All impulses, Glandien wrote in his brief introduction to the piece, proceed from the tape ... What I have composed is a process of increasing compression and intensification produced by a continual shortening of the rhythm and subdivision of the metre in a series of numerical proportions: 50:30:20:12 etc.

The elementary materials of the piece also include a twelve-note row, a quarry for the non-serial extraction of melodic and harmonic motifs. The first and longest section is dominated by loud, static, muffled hammerblows on the tape. Beginning in a monotonous quarter-note motion, they gradually take on sharper rhythmic definition and expand in ambitus, magnifying the music's underlying brutality. The strings respond, always en bloc, with sustained chords, canonic repetitions of notes and glissandi, a distinctive collapsing motif and wide intervallic leaps. These options are varied in many different ways without abandoning the music's martial stance. On the contrary: the monotony escalates, pulling the string parts along with it. Section 2 offers a gentle, non-violent alternative. The tempo is reduced by half. Dark, cavernous pitches and sonorities from the tape form a timbral backdrop against which the strings make halting attempts at soloistic activity. These, however, lead to naught, apart from causing the preceding compactness of the music to deteriorate. Section 3 again gives precedence to massive sonorities of increasing density and volume, undercutting four variegated attempts by the strings to achieve a sprightly individuality, and leading to an all-consuming escalation and collapse. This collapse, too, is a process vainly opposed by the strings, again four times. Their final response to the hammerblow clusters of the tape is silence. All that remains in Section 4 are regular pulsations of muffled noise from the tape, occurring at increasingly short intervals and ultimately fading into nothingness. Now, for the first time, the lead violin detaches itself from the previously homophonic or polyphonic string ensemble as a separate voice, attempting ot the conclusion of the work to achieve an individual style in free metre: a rhythm deriving from repeated notes forms a point of departure for on ever-expanding, increasingly more emphatic individual voice. But this individuction, too, is destined to remain in embryo, a glimmer of hope, frozen in repetitive turns of phrase in the ultra-high register. Related to the situation pertaining in East Germany at the time the work was written in spring 1989, the music clearly illustrates the possible outcome of 'carrying on' in a political sense of the term.

More sophisticated and multi-tiered, though not for that reason less clear and outspoken, are the semantic gestures of und war es noch still for chamber ensemble. It almost seems as if the intensity of Glandien's thoughts on the state of East German society, including its unrest and outbursts, had found their way into the music (the piece was completed in October 1989). This work for eleven conventional instruments abandons every semblance of intimacy and nobility associated with chamber music, virtually bursting asunder in an expanding maelstrom of destructing forces. In its own way, the music exposes the vanity of hopes and demystifies them in an upsurge of monumentality, incompatibility and violence. There is an air of finality to the radical timbres and their processual culminations. Even the title – 'and still it was quiet' – is frank ond unambiguous. It already harbours that tension between waiting and determination, premonition and certainty, deceptive peace and escalation, that form the expressive horizons of this piece. Based on a sharp reduction of musical material and a radicalization of its parameters (especially timbre) into extreme regions, the music is unusually compact for the simple reason that there is nothing superfluous about it. There is no potential in its intervallic relations with which to strike a balance; from beginning to end the music is held in an unresolvable state of tension by ninths, sevenths and seconds. The processual dramatic layout, the continual permutation of melodic particles, repetitive structures, changing metres with sharply deliniated tempi, polyrhythms: all combine to give the music a whirlwind quality hurtling relentlessly to its midpoint – Section 3, with its pulverizing, inexorably annihilating hammerblow chords in the piano. The piece, though virtually dominated by its ruthless central section, is also pervaded by a subversive dualism in such a way that, in this same section, sweeping glissandi in the strings and ornamental figures in the wind appear after a mere seven bars, condensing the massive sonorities and at the same time paralyzing them. This portentovs dialectic of stability and instability already governs the opening like a germ-cell for the entire work: the five-fold repetition of the pivotal interval of a ninth, in pianississimo, not only solidifies the sonority but brings out the harmonic uncertainty inherent within it. The constant ppp exudes calm at the same time that the instruments successively added to the piano counteract that calm. In this way the entire musical process is imbued with a sense of increasing consolidation in various stages, yet at the same time with a subliminal destabilization that never actually becomes manifest. 'And still it was quiet ...'

Glandien's progress toward a new music of trenchant gesture – and thus of greater intelligibility for the listener – through rhythm, novel timbre and processual dramatic structures has also left its mark on compositions in which his urge to social criticism is less overt. The composition cut for pre-recorded tape illustrates this tendency to greater abstractness (the piece was awarded a prize from West German Radio at the 1988 Young Composers' Forum). But here too we can plainly follow the way in which linear motion is used to build up sound-fields and sound-spaces which then collapse and are literally cut into particles that remain in existence and are regrouped into new formations. The three sections are kept separate by contrasting timbre and mobility. Within them, concord and disruption, playful motion and sudden silence, sound and noise are heard to collide and interpenetrate. The spatial character of the taped music – its acoustical direction – emphasizes and points up a concreteness of musical gesture alternating between the opposite poles of calm and motion, marking various stages of immutability and change.

Glandien's solo piano piece to date, the strangely titled 365 dating from 1988, exemplifies the many-sidedness of his linear development insofar as many-sidedness happens to be the 'theme' of the music itself. This work, which was awarded the Voya Toncitch Prize in Paris, is an imaginative, serially organized piece of minimal music with an underlying gesture of passionate impetuosity. It is based on a minimimalist procedure, the unfolding of initial material into various parallel strands overlaid into as many as four autonomous layers of parts. This process generates a whirlpool texture culminating in rash outbursts in which notes split away from the original lines. Regarding one of these passages with isolated, non-linearly determined pitches Glandien has remarked, What we have here is a situation where people escape. Once again, it was not the solution of a purely compositional problem that motivated Glandien to compose his music.

Gisela Nauck
(English translation by J. Bradford Robinson)
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