“This sleep,” the doctor continued, “gives her face already fully the character of the dead. Doesn't it seem to be already like those white masks, those plaster casts with which we try to preserve the traits of the deceased?”
“I would like to keep the face of our friend in such a cast,” whispered Maximilian in his ear. “I am sure she will still be beautiful, even as a corpse.”
“I would advise not to do so,” the doctor replied. “Such masks embitter our memory of the beloved. We believe the plaster to preserve some of her life, yet all we really preserve is the death itself.”
Two subjects are interconnected in Kagel's Kantrimiusik: music from the countryside and music about the countryside, folklore as well as pastorale. One finds, however, neither the technique of cutting and pasting quotations nor the portrayal of idyllic situations. Both subjects appear only as masks, just as lifeless as the one described in the first of Heine's “Florentine Nights,” a section that in the composition returns elliptically: This sleep does not please us, what to do with the soul?
The eight movements and seven intermezzi of this pastorale from various countries offer together the kind of presentation certain ensembles in the entertainment business (department 'folk,' subdepartment 'arrangements') like to offer in versions of much larger duration. During such evenings, 'family' groups with many children, dressed in local attire, come on stage. Acting as the faithful representatives of a specific country, they acoustically preach their solidarity only through falsified music. (How often, at those moments, does one regret the fate of folklore to be at once society’s mouthpiece and entertainment?)
The pseudo folkloristic character of some movements in Kantrimiusik, their double-hearted, vague folklore, should certainly not lead to double-hearted presentations. The piece purposely doesn't claim any authenticity with regard to sources, it rather works up the usual apocryph music. Every accurate musical interpretation ought to make clear how much parody and caricature or substantiated seriousness it contains.
The two possible ways of performance are: 1. a concert version; 2. a staged version (subtitle: parody in pictures). In both versions the musical context is identical.
The score asks for a minimum of three singers. Certain parts may be performed by untrained vocalists (for instance: instrumentalists) or amateur singers. Expressive yet raucous voices with unfocused intonation, as in ethno-musical sound documents, might create a resemblance in interpretation that professional singers could achieve only artificially.
The seven instrumentalists (clarinet, trumpet, tuba, violin, piano and two guitars with various plucked instruments: tenor banjo, ukulele, mandolin, octave guitar, Spanish guitar, western guitar, Mexican bass) perform certain sections with additional instruments (harmonica, accordion, zither, saxophone, fiddle, western piano). In addition one can use folkloristic rarities or instruments from the kitsch tradition. During the intermezzi, each performer in addition plays some percussion instruments.
In the course of the performance there are four sound montages from the countryside's acoustical environment. In connection with the atmosphere of the sound recordings, I would like to mention the second part of a remark found on the backside of the first violin part, used at the first performance of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony “Pastorale.” It says: “Mehr Ausdruck der Empfindung als Mahlerey” (more expression of feeling than portrayal). Whenever composers have written down their “memories of the life in the countryside,” the anecdotic, illustrative character of the musical language has been prominent. Now that we can include concrete sound material, we are offered the opportunity for a variable synthesis between naturalism, impressionism and veristic expressionism.