The most beautiful mysteries are those that allow for a variety of answers – this was the tenet of Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, an artist who pursued a tireless quest for the new. From his point of view, a composer’s main task lay in the development of unprecedented formal concepts. This did not only raise questions concerning the suitable structure for a piece of music, but also regarding the dissolution of traditional conditions inherent in the artistic process of its creation and its reception.
His work „Mobiles“ was inspired by Alexander Calder’s constructs. Here we are dealing with interrelations which will never be repeated, that’s to say: with ambiguity. Always the same and always different. "I called it the dynamics of the closed form”. The greater the number of repetitions, the more variations there are. At the same time, this “variable music” allowed for an open dramaturgy in that the composer would provide clear rules to play by – authorship, however, is assigned in large part to the interpreters.
Roman Haubenstock-Ramati tried to resolve the tension between autonomy and limitation by means of his notation. As a result, the gifted graphic designer and visual artist, who was endowed with an extraordinary sense for instrumental colours, developed a notation technique which even today is regarded as seminal. With its specific combination of exact and associative notational elements he created a substantially innovative correlation between sound and sign. However, according to his pupil Beat Furrer, it would be a grave mistake to reduce his importance to this feat alone, as Furrer explains in a conversation with Lothar Knessl: “... for him, this was only one pathway in his search of new forms, a stage in his development which he later abandoned. [...] because he had finally found what was central to his endeavours – the formal flexibility of music.”
Roman Haubenstock-Ramati was an unassuming, likeable and open-minded person. His visionary ideas resulted in an expansion and re-orientation of the concept of music. He bequeathed us a rich and exceptionally subtle oeuvre of enigmatic poetry – to solve its mysteries is always a matter involving the highest stakes.
Roman Haubenstock-Ramati – new CD release by KAIROS, 2016
Issued in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of its programme Polska Music.