Wolfgang Rihm: Pol – Kolchis – Nucleus

Wolfgang Rihm Pol – Kolchis – Nucleus
Pol – Kolchis – Nucleus

Wolfgang Rihm: Pol – Kolchis – Nucleus

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for ensemble
Wolfgang Rihm
0 0 2 0 - 1 2 1 0 - perc(2), hp, pno, vla(1), vc(1), cb(1)
Instrumentation details:
bass clarinet
Pol, Kolchis und Nucleus may also be performed separately, see also individual pieces.
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Pol – Kolchis – Nucleus

Work introduction

There is, evidently, no ticket to be had for a trip from a Pole to a Nucleus, passing a Kolchis en route. Do we want to be guided or chauffeured, anyway? Three short pieces: a triptych. Pictures (finished, unfinished - who knows?) being crowded together unintentionally in an artist's garret can sometimes reveal for a short moment the potential for mutual references. The disposition of three implies immediately „altar" (as Klaus Lankheit wrote about the triptych as „formula of pathos"). The inevitable onward march of time in music, nevertheless, prevents any self-conscious sanctity from being established. Three short pieces: each with its own history.

Pol was conceived as a birthday greeting for Paul Sacher's 90th birthday in a version for six instruments. For the triptych instrumental colours were overlaid onto the 6-instrument version to make up the 13 instruments for which Nucleus is scored. Nucleus owes its existence completely to the Badenweiler cause*: a greeting to Pierre Boulez. It is a potential germ for further growth, spin-offs and metastases. Similar to the superimposition in Pol, the harmony of the surrounding parts crystallizes in the piano part, so that it becomes almost palpable: in Pol, this has produced a closely-woven, static fabric composed of different individual strands.

In contrast, Nucleus is thought of in a more integrated way, possibly in a more organic way. A whole body of sound becomes "visualised" motion. Indeed, we hear the whole process as if perceiving a sculpture in time. For a long time this has been one of my aspirations in music and listening. But also here: a horizontal harmonic motion is shaped by vertical chordal blocks dissecting - not unlike articulation marks - the flowing narrative by binding and releasing, strapping and discharging; but never as clear cut as punctuation. This harmonic dichotomy of motion and articulation stems from the syntax of the listener's response, from the transformation of tension, and last but not least, from the demands that sensory response fundamentally poses for me all the time: Durs Grünbein once spoke of "poetics which follows mimetically the natural nervosity". What he referred to was the "thunder-like reflexes in some texts... given the precision of the structure, and additionally, the swinging spider net" (in a letter to me dating from 26/04/96). I may appropriate this theme for my own purposes and creative aspirations as somebody modelling sound. Grünbein was referring to his own texts. It just happens to coincide with my notions and ideals about form and forming.

Kolchis, the central piece written for five instruments, was dedicated to Kurt Kocherscheidt. It was performed at his last big exhibition in Vienna (at the Secession). The title, The Boys from Kolchis, was written on the wall underneath his images. Kocherscheidt died in the same year, in 1992. I owe many impulses to the sensual leasing and the sinister beauty of much of his works.

It might be possible to hear my three little pieces as one form articulating one wave of unified energy which is constituted out of many stimuli. Question mark and colon coexist.

Josef Häusler asked me to write a text about my pieces. He has known me for 25 years and knows very well how much I hate creating such texts while at the same time forcing myself to produce them - often enough as a gesture for friends. I would have loved to read his response to my notes - after all he is the one who is most intimately familiar with my artistic potential and limitations. But time was too short. Damocles' sword of having to explain music in words is still soaring above the music whereas the music changes its position constantly. Should the sword fall it could hit the wrong writer, or better still the wrong interpretation. But maybe the Gordian knot has become the sword's target meanwhile....

* The Römerbad Festival in Badenwcilcr which in 1996 is dedicated to Pierre Boulez

Wolfgang Rihm

English translation: Elke Hockings, Miranda Jackson

World première

Badenweiler (DE)
Ensemble Intercontemporain
Pierre Boulez

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