Interpretations of a text by Hugo Ball from the time of the First World War

Written for the 30th anniversary of the Ensemble Wiener Collage

for high soprano, alto flute, piano, celeste, harpsichord, guitar, harp, accordion, cimbalom, percussion, bass (alternative version without cimbalom)

Premiere: on April 24, 2018, Arnold Schönberg Center Vienna

Duration: ca. 8 minutes


When Hugo Ball, dressed in an absurd bishop-like costume, recited parts of his six sound poems in the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in the midst of the First World War, this was the birth of the Dada movement.

One of these sound poems reflects the war in a strangely mirrored way. I made it the basis of my composition and divided it into three sections. The first part is whispered (with approximations towards Sprechstimme), then the first and the second are performed in Sprechgesang, and finally the whole poem is sung - hence the title »Interpretations«.

In the character of a funeral march, the play is dramaturgically guided from the sphere of a heavy breath, of the whispered sound poem, through a desperate Sprechgesang and a »tearful« song back to the breath. In the second part, the text is divided into the soprano's vowels and the consonants performed by the flutist, accordionist, percussionist and celesta player: this gives the text an additional surrealist "touch". Musically, the piece evolves in a (repeating and varied) interpolation between two chords all the way to an overall five-part harmony.

In addition to the surreal form of the Dadaist sound poem, the unusual orchestration also gives the work an absurd slant. The combinations of flute and double bass, accordion and percussion (with its main colors being cymbals, vibraphone and bass drum), celesta and piano, guitar and harp, harpsichord and cimbalom enable extravagant orchestral colors. For practical reasons, it is also possible to perform the composition without cimbalom.