A cry. Human? Animal? Hard to say. An eruption of strings, strident, loud, insistent, dramatic. Good morning and welcome to the sound world of Wolfgang Rihm. In 1977 the German composer wrote a piece called “Music for three stringed instruments”. He was 25 years old at the time, a precocious avant-garde composer who would become one of the most important contemporary composer for classical music. By now the piece has become almost a classic of contemporary music. Rihm witnessed a performance in 2015 in Berlin by the violinist Ilya Gringolts, the viol player James Boyd and the cellist Nicolas Altstaedt. “You transformed my dots on paper into music”, he said afterwards. The biggest compliment ever.
A few weeks ago I met several hundreds of “gilets jaunes”. Protesters in yellow warning jackets marching through the streets of a French town. Angry faces, frustrated faces. Men and women of all ages. Violence was in the air, policemen were taking up their positions. “La France en colère” – France in anger. Initially the marchers protested against rising petrol prices. Through its tax increase the government however released all the frustration of France’s struggling middle class and the aggressivity of the working class. The victims – real or presumed – of a deregulated and destabilised economy feel ignored by the ruling elites in Paris. It’s about us and them and the feeling of alienation.
Schnell und rastlos – quick and restless – is the name of the first movement of Wolfgang Rihm’s String Quartet No. 5, a piece that itself has no proper name. Quick and restless – that’s me, to the great despair of my contemporaries. I have little patience and I like to get things done fast. At times my attention span is limited too, and I like to do several things at the same time usually messing up one or two. Quick and restless – is that the corollary to an ardent desire to live, to see, to hear, to do? I suppose it is.
A meditative piano piece. Minimalist music. “Auf einem anderen Blatt” – on another page. The German expression that gave this piece its title invites to change the perspective. While listening to it my mind started wandering: changing the perspective, being flexible, giving the other the right to have a different view than myself. Empathy, putting myself in someone else’s shoes, feeling how he feels – how difficult that is at times. “Auf einem anderen Blatt” also refers in German to the unsaid, often opposed to what has been said or written. Yes, but…