Eva Reiter — Noch sind wir ein Wort... [Still We Are A Word…]

Today, I engage with subtle, social processes. The fascination with the nature and motivation of our own actions as well as with the multi-layered concept of social interaction has played a significant part in my compositional work for quite some time now. This also applies to my current work Noch sind wir ein Wort…, where detailed consideration of such questions concerning “collective” and “individual” identity have led me to the rather unusual disposition of a duo of soloists in combination with a chorus of ten musicians.

In relation to the contentual setting, the chorus, in its collective role, assumes a decisive function and acts – like the chorus in the Greek theatre – with increasing authority. Time and again, individual soloist voices emerge from the chorus, but in actual fact the speaker’s collective lays claim to the dimensions of singular reality and truth. If one looks at the situation from a Nietzschean perspective, the drama’s action and its protagonists initially can only be perceived as a vision, insofar as the scene with all individual and collective activities on stage is created and constructed by the chorus – as if it were in the framework of this vision. The action can be described as the individual’s path back to the “unity of all that exists”. If one were to transfer this world of ideas on to the sounding reality of this composition, it would become clear that here, too, the very individual language of the solo instruments is made up of elements of the collective sound mass. From the moment they start to resound, they are placed in a somewhat dialectical opposition to the tutti of the chorus of instruments. The format of the solo instrument emerges from the chorus, which nevertheless – as the form and power of the collective – maintains a marked interest in re-integrating everything and in leading the way from individuation back to unity.

In this process, the transformation from language to sound and, conversely, the development of a new “sound language” in the sense of a phonemic structure, is achieved by a particular way of shaping the sound material which derives from this intensive analysis of instrumental modes of articulation. The musicians who comprise the chorus are equipped with mouthpieces of various lengths which are chromatically tuned to cover three octaves; in addition they employ diverse other implements such as Vuvuzelas, voice changers, etc., in order to express the rhetorical material.

In the beginning there is an attempt at generating the basic phonemic sound components primarily from existing syllables which are taken from various text fragments. However, the situation is reversed later on. Increasingly, the chorus imitates linguistically those parts of the material which have been developed “furthest” according to the specific instruments and in this way finds a new language.

Whether it represents the idea of the Greek chorus or the mundane situation of a collective – or, indeed, the basic constitution of an ensemble of musicians – this piece can be regarded as the result of an experiment testing individually versus collectively motivated action. In this way it reflects the tensions which shape not only subtle social interactions but also our self-conception, the notion and assessment of our own actions.
(Eva Reiter, 2016)

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