I’m not particularly keen on setting poems that convey concrete content or emotions. Music and literature are highly autonomous “languages” which often get in each other’s way. The advantage of the combinations of experimental poetry is, to my eyes (and ears) not only its lack of concrete meaning and “messages,” but above all its proximity to compositional methods. A “boule de neige,” one might say (a text continuously growing on the snowball principle from a small “protosemantic” cell, which varies its meaning, chameleon-like, as it grows), is already inherently a musical process through the “fanning out” of sound material in the course of time. Another thing that connects me to these word-artists is the self-referentiality of their linguistic goals, but also the humor and irony of their creations. Apart from the Boule de neige (movement four) by Harry Mathews, I do not use any other texts by Oulipiens. Four of the eight texts I developed myself during the compositional process. The second movement was based on an idea by Gertrude Stein; the fifth is a treatment, translated into Italian, of a poem from the Phantasus-Zyklus (1898-99) by the Berlin poet Arno Holz (who anticipated certain avant-gardisms of the twentieth century); and the sixth is based on Li Bai’s poem from the Tang Dynasty (7th10th century), although it was used less on a semantic than on a sonic level.

Cantatrix Sopranica is a self-referential piece, on many different levels: on the one hand, its content is about singing itself (above all in movements one, two, five, and eight), the specific qualities of singers, their tricks and tics from vocal exercises to their self-presentation on (and behind) stage, and musical phenomena or processes that are reflected in language, and vice versa (movements three and four). On the other, it is also about playing with musical languages of the past, singing techniques that become an end in themselves, and idiomatic clichés not only of European music (the fifth and sixth movements). Song and instrumental playing interact, role-play is involved, and even the swapping of roles between singers and musicians. In this piece, I aimed for the greatest possible symbiosis of linguistic and sound processes, and had the intention of not only entertaining but also of amusing the audience in what I hope is not too obscure a manner. The piece is not free of musical mischief-making which, as we know, can assume menacing dimensions.


To read the entire piece, purchase your copy of Music & Literature no. 8.