© Alexander Kaiser
© Alexander Kaiser
Portrait Kaser
© Haymon Verlag

Alexander Kaiser - schwarzes licht (becoming Kaser)

„to fancy everything & also nothing“ is a line from the poem I am a barrel by N. C. Kaser, who died in 1987. Like Kaser, I was born in South Tyrol and, half a century later, grew up in the very same village. Together with Styrian dramatist and theatre director Ernst Maria Binder, who unexpectedly died in 2017, I have most recently worked on a libretto for an opera based on Kaser’s life and work, and in particular on his poem I am a barrel. Begun more than three years ago as a project for the University of Music, Graz, in the context of its initiative “Opera of the Future”, the story continued to unfold. Although initially conceived as a short opera, it soon became clear that Kaser’s work contained so much that was well worth discovering. As a result, I gradually began to expand the story further, allowing it to grow, to mutate and to transform itself. The focus now is on Kaser himself, the human being and artist who gives birth to a child – who is pregnant. Pregnant with art, with disease, ravaged by his alcohol addiction and liver cirrhosis, caught in the middle between mental blanks and the creative urge to shape and construct. Aware of the fact that he has come to the end of his life, with a swollen belly that can no longer be concealed, the story begins with Kaser sitting alone on a bench, holding a dead cat in his hands, which stinks and is flat as a slice of bread. The libretto follows a dialogue between Kaser, sung by a counter tenor, and several fictitious people who, in changing roles, at times appear as familiar dialogue partners, at others as distant observers, including the public, a priest, an aunt, a friend and a child. Fragments of Kaser’s texts – freely adapted prose and poetry as well as passages from his correspondence – are put together in a new order, are freshly associated and combined. The rhythm of the language is carried into the instrumental lines – at times deliberately fractured, at others coherent, as the author intended, with every single word that I used coming from the pen of N. C. Kaser himself. 

Black Light (becoming Kaser) is a work for ensemble and two solo voices, conceived as an introduction for the audience to this libretto: a prologue (work in progress), which can stand on its own, but at the same time prepares the listener for this unreal moment of encounter with the pregnant artist – a moment of irritation, of unease. It is similar to the feeling of moving through black light, of being exposed to ultra-violet radiation. The title of the work, too, is taken from one of Kaser’s poems whose language throughout the composition has provided me both with an abstract and concrete frame of reference and whose idiosyncrasies I have translated into musical parameters. What is fragile in Kaser’s language, for instance, becomes repeatedly palpable and audible whenever, in moments of great intensity, the voices are overlapping, and lines run into each other, get tangled, mass together, growing into a powerful cloud of sound, which is then forced open – like a bottle of wine, shattering on the ground, discharging its contents. Overall, the composition is organised around several musical centres which are inspired by the writer’s formal consistency in eschewing capital letters and punctuation, the playful and at the same time precise spatial organisation of his texts, his refraction of words. These provide centres, a kind of framework, around which the individual voices circle – each standing on its own but at the same time influencing each other; isolated from each other but also interwoven.

[TRANSART_17] SCHWARZES LICHT (BECOMING KASER) from Festival Transart on Vimeo.

 in Video  in Werke
23 September 2017
7.30 p.m.
Bruneck, Military Camp Enrico Federico Transart Festival Schwarzes Licht (Black Light) UA

Simone Movio — Logos III
Hannes Kerschbaumer — schraffur

Alexander Kaiser — Schwarzes Licht World prèmiere of the 1st part

Noa Frenkel, Alto
Daniel Gloger, Countertenor
Krassimir Sterev, accordion in quarter tones
conductor: Bas Wiegers

[TRANSART_17] SCHWARZES LICHT (BECOMING KASER) from Festival Transart on Vimeo.