Helmut Lachenmann at the Southbank


18 Monday 18th October 2010

This weekend the Southbank Centre celebrates the 75thbirthday of renowned German composer Helmut Lachenmann, pioneer of musique concrète instrumentale – music imitating electronic sounds through unconventional playing of instruments. The festivities, including performances of Got Lost, Ausklang and on-stage discussions with Lachenmann himself, concludes on Sunday evening with a rare UK performance of the composer’s Schreiben, one of his largest orchestral works.
“Sound as an experience of energy… bowed, pressed, beaten, torn, maybe choked, rubbed, perforated and so on.” This is the delightful way Helmut explains his creations. Enter orchestras that execute electronic music through instrumentation, vocalists that project an entire composition of clicking sounds, or string sections that avoid contact with their strings. The antithesis of Pop? Yes. Lachenmann’s aim is never to sway you into tears or joy, but to bring the concert hall into an existential involvement.
As materials clash, situation specific noise-action is created. New sonic levels of music appear, layered in such intricate ways as to seem almost inaccessible even to a finely tuned pair of headphones. But somehow Lachenmann’s compositions are able to take the feelings of a crowd and echo it into the rafters. What magazines normally term a ‘song’ is for the creator of musique concrète instrumentale a by-product.  
Taken under the wing of avant-garde composer Luigi Nono, Lachenmann quickly learnt aesthetics were there to serve social severance. A short stint at the electronic music studio at the University of Ghent saw him combine these two passions. Unfortunately for a variety of performers that meant an entire plethora of unique techniques had to be discovered. The performers of Got Lost are to balance poems by Nietzsche with an announcement of a missing dirty clothesbasket. Oh and to make it easier Helmut wants the energy to be directed to “broken vowels and exploding consonants.”  
Perhaps it’s a fitting present from world renowned soprano Sarah Leonard, pianist Rolf Hind and the Arditti Quartet. After all, the weekend at the Southbank celebrates Helmut’s birthday. As his specially composed pieces reverb atomic vibrations through the air, there’ll be crowds ready to cheer and clap for more.
For more information and to buy tickets please see here.

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