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“Atem küsst sich in die Luft” (the title comes from “Verklärte Nacht” by Richard Dehmel) is about the qualities and gestures in German music of the early 20th century.
The late romantic – and early a-tonal - music with its vast extremes: ‘Innig, sehr zart und weich’, ‘heftig bewegt’, ‘mit zartestem ausdruck’, ‘kaum hörbar’, includes mood indicators I can very much relate to.
I have invited them inside a more abstract and contemporary framework.
The work involves quite a bit of fixation, or, to put it more mildly, centralisation.
The romantic period was often characterized by fixated behaviour; a lot of romantic art is about obsession or great intensity: “Alle meine Sinnen nun wollen sich in Schlummer senken...”, “Ich hatte doch nur ein schwer Verlangen..”
That particular atmosphere, the inability to detach oneself from a certain pattern, the fatal determination – driven by circumstance or one’s own psyche – to head towards a fair or dark destiny, became the guideline for this work.
To allow the players to embody this genre as much as possible, I chose to use a score in which the mood indicators refer to similar gestures in late romantic and early a-tonal scores.
Therefore the whole score is written in German.
Before the main feature - part 2 - starts, a Polygoon newsreel comes on: a storm, filmed at the beginning of the century somewhere in Germany. Everything unwinds too fast, as often in manually operated reels, the storm has rushed past before one realizes what happened.
This miniature is an ode to romantic German Storm-music (Liszt, Wagner), a dark omen for imminent change, culturally as well as socially.
That slippery slope, this irrevocable downfall of values that seemed só grounded, surfaces in the main part, in which the shadows of a lost time appear. A large organic mass, an enormous pot of boiling oil, in which about 10 thematic groups glide past and over each other, around a restlessly swinging D/F pedal point.
Among the thematic cells that serve as a base, some never change, others seek to break out of their circle or play a game with others, without however leaving their territories.
A sample of those cells:

 

  1. The low, hammering E-flat, superimposed by the chord (from down to up) G, E-flat, F, D-flat; this group doesn’t change.
  2. The interval D/F, featuring in three-quarters of the piece, then breaking out and returning as C-sharp/E and a high B-flat/D-flat.
  3. A short string motif in punctuated eighths (D, B, A, C, E)