Heiner Goebbels

Heiner Goebbels  The experience of things

source: oldars-numericanet

The portrait of an author through his work, a look at contemporary art.
Heiner Goebbels, composer and director, working on his latest play “Stifters Dinge” (Stifter’s Things).
A theatre without actors, or dancers, nor musicians … ? And nonetheless, we are here confronted with performing arts, a place where machines and objects obey their own laws and neither embody nor in any way replace the actor. An experience of time, of space, of “things” given to the spectator through various forces: oppositions, tensions, harmonies, distortions, and resonances, manufactured by very peculiar machinery and tools.

Stifters Dinge, or how Heiner Goebbels, in his last performance, creates “see” and “hear” differently, freeing the viewer from the narrative grip of conventional theatre
Bringing together the voices, songs, dialogues of the characters that have today disappeared, pioneering ethnological recording such as those of Rudolf Poch, allowing the materials alone to say what they have to say, offering the viewer an adventure in image and sound. Stifters Dinge, or how a visual and sound system, entirely computer driven, can now have its place in a theatre.
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source: youtube

An artist portrait as well as a look on contemporary theater creation.
In his new piece ‘Stifters Dinge’, Heiner Goebbels, director and composer, works without any actors neither musicians on stage, nevertheless it’s really about living arts.
Inspiring from Stifters texts from the 19 century, Heiner Goebbels builds this experimental performance, an extraordinary artistic challenge, by using new technologies, with the complicity of his stage designer Klaus Grünberg, and also with an high level technical crew in Théatre Vidy Lausanne.
During the creation, this work-in-progress session reveals a space, time and « things » experience, a travel through picture and sound, letting materials, objects, machines, elements, talking and telling what they have to say.
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source: heinergoebbels

The composer and director Heiner Goebbels (*1952) belongs to the most important exponents of the contemporary music and theatre scene. His compositions for ensembles and big orchestras published by Ricordi Munich are currently performed worldwide as well as several of his music theatre works and staged concerts, mostly produced by Théâtre Vidy Lausanne and the Ensemble Modern.
Heiner Goebbels works as a professor at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies of the Justus Liebig University in Giessen (Germany) and is President of the Theatre Academy Hessen. From 2012 to 2014 he is the artistic director of the International Festival of the Arts RUHRTRIENNALE.
Upcoming performances can be seen in the Calender.
The Archive offers a large number of articles, reviews, pictures, a catalogue of works, the performance history and discography. Most of his CDs are produced and published by ecm records.
The music theatre productions Max Black, Hashirigaki, Eraritjaritjaka, Stifters Dinge and I went to the house but did not enter are in the repertoire of Théâtre Vidy. Schwarz auf Weiss, Eislermaterial, Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten are in the repertoire of the Ensemble Modern. The London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra in the Age of Enlightenment perform Songs of Wars I have seen and the Ensemble Klang (N) an ensemble version of Walden.
His latest productions John Cage: Europeras 1&2, When the Mountain changed its clothing, Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury and Louis Andriessen: De Materie are distributed by the Ruhrtriennale.
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source: planet-tvde

Diese Dokumentation begleitet die Entstehung des Musiktheaterstücks „Stifters Dinge” von Heiner Goebbels und macht die Zuschauer zu Augen- und Ohrenzeugen eines kreativen Arbeitsprozesses, der den Künstler auch und vor allem als Techniker fordert: Ganz ohne Schauspieler und Musiker schafft Goebbels ein modernes multimediales Gesamtkunstwerk, das auf Texten Adalbert Stifters basiert und so unterschiedliche Elemente wie ethnografisch-historische Aufnahmen aus Papua-Neuguinea von 1905, automatisch spielende Klaviere und Geräusche von aneinander reibenden Betonplatten in der Tradition der musique concrète kombiniert und diese Tradition neu zu definieren vermag. Zur Londoner Premiere schrieb The Telegraph:” Stifter‘s Dinge: who cares what it is? It‘s terrific” – Stifters Dinge: Wen kümmert es, was das ist? Es ist großartig.
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source: ecmreviews

“Language cannot represent thought, instantly, in its totality; it is bound to arrange it, part by part, in a linear order.”
–Michel Foucault

How can the pen be mightier than the sword when the page is the most hurtful weapon? It is not that the flesh receives the pen, but that the eyes swallow words into the soul, their blades wreaking havoc in a place where dying utterances thrash, unnoticed, for want of lips and tongue. There is something to be felt here, pondered like sun and moon in the same sky, only to slip from grasp, tether to a dream. In that state of half-sleep we are hyper-aware of sounds that make us. We turn them inside out and hold them to our ears, each a vacated conch shell. Were we able to peer into the shadows of those porcelain folds, we might encounter composer Heiner Goebbels tinkering in the deepest crevice, his fingernails clicking like camera shutters at the dawn of time.

Such is the veil that stands between us and Stifters Dinge (Stifters Things), the 2007 installation piece that would be enigma were it not for the clarity of its presence. It is many things. It is everything. It is the power of speech turned on its head and spun until it is a single color. The voice of Claude Lévi-Strauss excavates the work’s ethos, at once underscoring and disavowing our need for discovery, the rarity of adventure in a global network mapped and catalogued to every conceivable end. It is also a regression into a past where the truest blanks in our physiological scripts remain. These blanks play host to other notable figures. William S. Burroughs levels his critique of inner fire into social ice. Malcolm X speaks of division, fragmentation of power, splitting of the master’s tools. Goebbels weaves in field recordings from Papua New Guinea, Greece, and Columbia, archives of travel and lost communities, shades of Bach and monoliths. Bobbing along these waves is the constant ghost of one Adalbert Stifter, the eponymous 19th-century Austrian writer who, like Henry David Thoreau, heard nature as the musical amalgam of machine and biome that it is.

The piece is, above all, an experience—Goebbels calls it a “performative installation”—that abets the evolutionary processes it unravels and reties into permeable sculpture. The gentle logic of it all is indeed linguistic. We feel ourselves caught up in its locks and thorns. But the human is hidden, falling into ruin among the crust and residue of progress. It is an irrigation system that draws forth the atmospheres of solids. Drones of screen and sand, of distortion and touch: these are its faces.

The piano looms large, both literally onstage and figuratively as the consummation of the gallantry it burns to ash. As a mouthpiece of elitist spirit, its heft trembles under contact. As a technological pest, it is so impervious that only practice, mastery, and ultimately submission are its effects. It is an artificial ecosystem that somehow becomes parthenogenetic. As the soundtrack to smoke, it enfolds us, settles in with our bacteria. Stifters Dinge, then, is an astonishing concept that fully alerts us to the astonishment of concept.

“Language refuses but one thing,
to make as little noise as silence.”
–Francis Ponge

“Is there such a thing as three-dimensional music?” asks Wolfgang Sandner. In ECM’s audio version of Stifters we have one answer.

The fog (1) flaunts a wave of mystery, given traction by the distant bass beat of a techno house, pulsing like our zeitgeist through avenues of youthful expression, bodily movement, and philosophical naïveté. The salt (2) chips away at our ear canals and offsets the arterial spice trade with the attention of rot hidden in every city’s foundation. The water (3) speaks in drips, opening us to the metronome’s deception. In every deposit we startle a different facet of the same visage. The wind (4) carries sailors’ incantations: sinewy, mineral. A recurring clutch, an audio checkmark spinning us on our axes of interpretation. A prayer for the nameless, for the bodiless, for the motionless. The trees (5) whisper through punctured tires and forest tales. Piano chords rest on the fulcrums of frozen pasture. Anxieties fade, crystalline, into the aching heart of the beast. The thing (6) abrades its hide with strings, in each a keystone of intent that opens its mouth and sings nothing. The rain (7) does not pour but weeps, finding its way through crags, abandoned houses, and blackened farms. It soaks the earth, churning, sneezing diagrams into every root. It is the thunder (8) that falls, unleashing torrents of political rhetoric. The sound (9) emotes from a muffled source, its life written in a phonograph’s needle and spoken through a black-and-white broadcast. The piano kicks like a sleeping dog. And while the storm (10) hails morose arpeggios, it also closes itself to the possibility of air and cracks instead along fault lines that far outdate the means of their articulation. A foot drags through leaves and curls around the coast (11). A blink extends, every lash a piece of driftwood pillared between heaven and earth. A pressure gauge, valve and open throat, thump of a Tell-Tale Heart and tick of an Ingmar Bergman clock. In the exhibition of objects (12), we find that many such curios have fallen through the cracks and gathered at the bottom of this tub, washed down a drain of silence.

“So we have destiny to thank for permitting us to be what we will become to each other.”
–The Brothers Quay, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

In light of these evocative possibilities, of which I have sketched hardly the crescent of a thumbnail, I search for concrete language with which to describe that which is coated like so many dusty attics. For this, I go to the source. Mr. Goebbels answers the following questions I posed via e-mail:

1. There is a sense of “opening” in your music that, like a painting, offers a window into its own world. In your mind, where does this opening lead?

To the listener’s imagination.

2. Often in your work, and especially in Stifters Dinge, I feel a sense of unsettling, of things coming apart. And yet, there is still unity. The music, the theatre—it all holds together. How do you balance these two seemingly contradictory aspects? Or are they part of the same sound, image, and word?

I think it’s a sometimes-unconscious contrapuntal (counterpoint) strategy, in the best possible 18th-century sense.

3. How did you approach the CD version versus the museum version? What special characteristics of the CD as a visual and sonic package influence the physical experience of Stifters Dinge?

The CD recording offers a very direct and detailed “view” of the machines and instruments; you can hear things which you will not be able to perceive in the live performance because of visual distraction or spatial distance.

4. Was there anything about Stifters Dinge that surprised you when you experienced the final result?

Yes, everything. I didn’t start this project with a vision. Just with a question: Are the performative installation and music possible without any performer? The answer is the result.

5. On that note, is there a “final” result, or does it always shift and evolve? Does it still surprise you?

What still surprises me is the range of experiences from audiences. These are the actual “center” of the piece.

6. Which elements from your previous work are present in Stifters Dinge? Which elements are new?

There is a strong continuity in all my work regarding the use of acousmatic voices, the use of documentary recordings. What’s new is the heavy, overall machine-like construction.

7. I am so grateful not only to you for creating such visceral and reactive art, but also to Manfred Eicher for believing in it so strongly. Because of him, I have discovered it. Can you briefly discuss how you first met Mr. Eicher and how he has influenced your activities and way of thinking?

I met him for the first time in the late seventies/early eighties in concerts. Since The Man In The Elevator (1987) we’ve had a sort of exclusive partnership based on friendship, with inspiring talks on all art forms, literature, music, film, etc. And during these exchanges he was the one who drew my attention to Francis Ponge’s “The Pine Wood Notebook” (in Ou bien le débarquement désastreux) or to Samuel Beckett’s “Worstward Ho” (in I went to the house but did not enter).

For further answers, I turn to filmmaker Marc Perroud, whose documentary The experience of things, Heiner Goebbels charts the development and realization of Stifters from the turnstiles of the brain to the stages of reality. As Goebbels informs the camera, he sought to eschew the use of actors, to build a “free area” of intensity for the public. For him, composition and stagecraft go hand in hand. “I’m not a visionary or someone who has a clear idea of what he wants to do,” he goes on to say. “I always react strongly to what I see.” The lack of prepared material allowed for merging between technical and artistic processes. The situation created the music.

As one interested in the infinity of theatre, Goebbels sees the art form not as a means of “narrowing vision” but as an “open channel” for fresh experiences. Placing action behind details is his fascination. Communication thrives here in song, in text, in stasis, cracked to reveal the sound that is its blood: “We understand things better when they are placed at a distance and are more aware of their structure when we focus on abstraction.” Stifters ritualizes nature. Land and water become one. Things are not only objects, but are the unfamiliar, a space of curiosity to which Goebbels holds a magnifying glass. The machines speak, he listens.