Writing through genesis

by Klaus Reichert (text) and Alessandro Bosetti (composition)


Radio oratorio

2015

Catalogue number : 60

On texts by Klaus Reichert. With Die Maulwerker :     Steffi Weismann, Tilmann Walzer, Katarina Rasinski, Christian Kesten, Henrik Kairies, Ariane Jesulat.

The composition, which develops from sounds of different languages, refers to the biblical quotation « In the beginning was the word » and to the building of the Tower of Babel and reminds us of the fact that the holy scripture was initially an oral tradition and that the sound of the syllables was attributed a divine power. Bosetti and Reichert have thus succeeded in creating a modern and idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture and liturgical a cappella chants, the deeper meaning of which is revealed in the original sound fragments at the end of the piece: « The early rabbis, the Kabbalists, believed that in every word of the (…) in every word of this work there is the whole work.

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Hörspiel des Monats december 2015.  German Academy of Performing Arts jury motivations:

In this December, dominated by sound art submissions, the choice fell on the language composition « Writing Through Genesis », based on a text by Klaus Reichert. The English scholar, translator and lyricist took on the story of creation in the course of the hr2 bible series, which inquires into contemporary perspectives on ancient scripture. In homage to his friend John Cage and his sound poetic texts « Writing through Finnegans Wake » Reichert transferred the methodology of Mesostics used by Cage to the first chapter of Genesis, in Hebrew, German, Greek, Latin, French and English. The vertical centre line gives the first two words of the Bible « In the beginning ». None better than Alessandro Bosetti could have taken care of these multilingual text fragments for radio processing. For most of his radio pieces balance on the borderline between language and music. Here he succeeds playfully, associatively, by reducing the words recorded and sung by the vocal ensemble Maulwerker to syllables, chopping them into sound particles, repeating them and combining them into ever new sound formations and textures in the sense of the old Jewish Kabbalistic tradition of recombining letters. The composition, which develops from sounds of different languages, refers to the biblical quotation « In the beginning was the word » and to the building of the Tower of Babel and reminds us of the fact that the holy scripture was initially an oral tradition and that the sound of the syllables was attributed a divine power. Bosetti and Reichert have thus succeeded in creating a modern and idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture and liturgical a cappella chants, the deeper meaning of which is revealed in the original sound fragments at the end of the piece: « The early rabbis, the Kabbalists, believed that in every word of the (…) in every word of this work there is the whole work.

In homage to his friend John Cage and his sound poetic texts « Writing through Finnegans Wake » Klaus Reichert transferred the methodology of Mesostics used by Cage to the first chapter of Genesis, in Hebrew, German, Greek, Latin, French and English. The vertical centre line gives the first two words of the Bible « In the beginning ».

Once I have been invited to sonify (Vertönen) the combinatory texts of klaus Reichert for Radio I could not help but perceive in front of me the entanglement of two familiar compositive and philosophical manieras :

One which was deeply rooted into the cabalistic recombination of the letters of a mystical alphabet and into the idea that the name of god or even every other word may contain in nuce the entire universe.

The other which draws inspiration from results of aleatoric recombination as proposed by John Cage, a long time friend and collaborator of Reichert. This practice leaves to chance the power of shuffling cards namely to recombine, sounds, sentences, words and phonemes and by this allowing a potentially infinite number of non-intentional variations.

Both strategies suggest a germination growing out of language which by it’s own unfolding is supposed to let new portions of sensible reality appear.

Not only those two manieras appeared in front of me in all their prominence but I could also feel once again how powerful their influence – filtered by post-structuralist theories – had been on the whole forming of my own artistic practice and the development of a sensibility linked to it.

After almost twenty years of work balancing on the cliff between music and language I often asked myself which aspects of such ideas would have been better discarded and expelled from the system in order to get back to a more direct realism.

I had been thinking and admiring theories en vogue in the second half of the past century as the literary and musical constructivisms, Eco’s semiotic interpretations, Perec’s oulipo, Jackson MacLow combinatory practices, Derrida’s deconstructions, Chomsky’s transformational grammatical structures and so on.

Now they seem to get on the way of a fresher and freer creative process allowing relation and access to the materiality of things and the world with no need of any linguistic or structural mediation.

Despite this constant questioning I did find me in front of a text which apparently aims to take me away from things and towards an idea of language intended as underlying structure, wherein things are taken in consideration in an ambiguous way. Namely: all things are somehow implied but no one – but language itself – is directly interpelled.

Maybe I was missing a point. In Reichert texts all objects seemed masked by a most powerful but no less evanescent and diaphanous object which is language. Language which has its hands-on the doe (teig) of reality but is itself a piece of of it by being an object among objects.

I recalled how this approach – that of seeing language as a thing among things – had always been my instinctual way of treating language – or what i believe to be a language – in my work. An approach consisting in having it first disappear in a sort of evanescent embrace only to bring it back later as a solid and concrete object among other objects as stone, fire, people and sounds.

This leads me to say something in regard to the inclination of using language as a musical material; even though language appears to be a very special kind of object, very much implied into the existence of innumerable other things and processes, it retains a certain uncanny and mysterious allure making it endlessly seductive to my consciousness and my ears, way more seductive than other sonic concretions which are far more often used in music; concretions are for example fixed and regular relations between frequencies (intervals), timbres specific to one or another instrument or gestures specific to one or another genre.
The “than” is crucial though since seduction is born out of comparing and out of a distinction with a previously existing types of music.

At the end of the 13th century mystic and philosopher Ramon Llull had theorised a Ars Combinatoria which could be practiced with the aid of mobile wheels carrying letters and symbols which took the name of lullian wheels.

Working on Klaus Reichert’s texts I made use of sonorous lullian wheels. Within such wheels a limited number of phonetic and linguistic elements have been span or randomly recombined. Quick sequences are created and through acceleration the perceptive dissolution of the discrete elements of such sequences is achieved.
Sequences become textures which are chaotic and coherent at the same time. Each coherent one of them is like a different kind of doe with a specific taste and consistence associated to it.

Other than Cage which leaves sound fragments and objects floating in time without any incantatory or repetitive premeditation such procedure seems closer to the incantatory and combinatory game of “change-ringing” – the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called “changes” – than to Cage’s alea. In it a limited number of elements oscillates quickly to the point of generating a new perceived material.

In traditional lullian wheels each notch or box is coherent one to a meaning, be it one of the names of god, a virtue, an attribute, a mineral or a sign of the zodiac.
In my sound version of the wheels each one of the original meaning had been eventually erased. What now circulate are phonemes, emptied in meaning and whose intonation is quivering. Such tiny fragments appear now as small ripples, individual waves that rotate and recombine creating consistent formations. Their main attribute is no longer meaning but inflection. They generate sound archipelagos whose traits are uniform as the rocks of a certain place, all slightly different and yet all ascribable to the same geological origin.

In the beginning these wheels articulated the name of God, or even more simply articulated the name of the beginning itself (am anfang / breschit). In such beginnings we were supposed to imagine the whole world, already complete, folded or hidden and ready to appear. Eventually they began to rotate so quickly as to lose sight of any meaning and any narration in a kind of creative ecstasy.

However – contrary to expectations – that which flows from this rotation is not the world – nor an ordered cosmos with an above and a below, a before and after – it is instead a raw material more like mud or mush. A sound doe (teig).

The alchemical sound magic shaped a little thing, a Moloch, a mud, a piece of bread. It has temporarily removed us from structural projections and has brought us closer to the materiality of things and sounds.

by Klaus Reichert (text) and Alessandro Bosetti (composition)
Dramaturgie: Ursula Ruppel
Production: Hessischer Runfunk
Duration: 43’55”

With Die Maulwerker :     Steffi Weismann, Tilmann Walzer, Katarina Rasinski, Christian Kesten, Henrik Kairies, Ariane Jesulat
Carried out with the support of Gmem, centre national de création musicale, Marseille.

Hörspiel des Monats preis december 2015

© Alessandro Bosetti / 2021