Wolfgang Mitterer is a contemporary Austrian composer
For many years now I’ve been trying to incorporate the ideas behind the works of Christopher Wool and Gerhard Richter, in particular, into my own painterly endeavours…but without much success. “Why bother?” I ask myself! Anyway, during all this very trying period in my life I’ve also listened to Mitterer’s “Music for Checking E-mails” many times, and have recently re-listened to his ‘symphony’ called “Coloured Noise”. I’ve also read an interesting review of it by Jacques Coulardeau on Amazon, so shall paste it below. Enjoy!
“Don’t expect the presentation of this symphony in the booklet of the CD to enlighten you about what a standard listener could get out of it. The point of view is “how did the composer do it?” which is for the audience of no avail. But get into it and just listen. The composition that associates the instruments and musicians of the orchestra and the samples and sampled tit bits produced by the computers are built in a very complex architecture. That it rejects all the facades of standard music is not a characteristic of this music. It creates a depth in space, hence in time, and if architecture there is, façade there is too. The point is that you cannot just let yourself expect being transported into a traditional universe with an effortless because already learned listening. You have to let yourself slip into the music and you have to learn how to devise a way to listen to that music in order to get into its architecture, deep architecture and not superficial façade. Every single sound, no matter what it is, is in a way or another an isolated island to which all the other sounds of that very moment are the surrounding environment. The point is that the focus changes all the time from one sound to another and the environment is recomposed every single time. Instead of entering a linear composition that leads you from one note to the next in some kind of audio logic, here you jump from one island to another, from one environment to another with no apparent logic but only the idea, the feeling, the impression that each island has a color and that the color of each island is like the sequence, the sequel not of the previous one, but of the following one. How can an impression be the result of something coming afterwards? That’s the impression I have, the emotion I feel of a sound retrospective architecture. That means we have in a way to reconstruct that retrospectivity and to expect something that is not a sequel but a source after what we have just heard. It is not so much an attempt to question and surprise and even shock your listening habits as a complete reversal of them. You have to listen to what comes as if you were looking backward at what has come from the point of view of what is to come. I have rarely felt that emotion. Yet it is an extremely classic emotion with some great composers of the past. I even think the great baroque composers were dedicated to that kind of retrospective vision. I have always felt that when listening to J.S. Bach’s Passions. Every single piece in those passions transforms what precedes them. You constantly have to go back to enrich what you thought was the meaning of any piece with the meaning of the next piece or pieces. But the retrospective sensation was working in your memory. Mitterer who is Bachian in that way, is requiring from you that you envisage what is coming when you are listening to what is being played at this very moment. How can you? That’s just the point. Your enjoyment is constantly suspended and your enjoyment is in this very suspension. Your enjoyment is at its highest point when you have been able to foresee what is coming. How can you do that? With a lot of practice and a lot of imagination. And at the same time, every single moment when you have not been able to do it, you are surprised and you kind of feel “Of course, dummy, that I should have seen”. In other words Mitterer is turning you into the composer. Either you can or you can’t but your pleasure will be all the more important if you can, at least from time to time. You have to learn to imagine how what is coming and has not come yet is going to surprise you, to disturb your expectation, to destroy your standard visions. You constantly have to play with that idea: “How can we disrupt this sound, this piece of music, the impression and sensation and emotion I am feeling right now.” We have to live that music dangerously and that is a beautiful experience. What are the clues Mitterer provides you with? Little or few. But rhythm seems to be one clue because it is easier to imagine how one piece of rhythm can be disrupted. But you also have the textures of the sounds because here too there is some kind of disruptive logic. In the past they used the different textures of the different instruments, that they called timbres, in order to create some harmonious, or disharmonious, whole. Mitterer uses this dimension in order to build a constantly jerking progress in the world of sonority. But there is a great pleasure when you have been able to foresee the textural change Mitterer is going to introduce to disrupt your listening façade. I must say my pleasure is maximum with this piece, a lot more than with “The Saint Bartholomew Massacre” I have had the opportunity to watch live recently, probably because the music is not overloaded here with a not so meaningful visual wrapping. Its architecture is purer, pure sound and not composite.”
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Vincennes Saint Denis, University of Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID Boulogne Billancourt
Painting by Christopher Wool in London’s Tate Modern