The Stateless, commissioned by the Swiss duo UMS ‘n JIP (recorders, voice, electronics), was composed in September 2012. It is an electro-acoustic setting of the first four poems of the Lyrisches Intermezzo (1822-1823) by the German poet Heinrich Heine. The idea of working with these texts was a proposal by Javier Hagen of the Swiss Duo Ums n’ JiP. I focused my reflection on the anachronism of those texts from the German Romanticism period, on which Robert Schumann had already written his Dichterliebe cycle in 1840, which marked the height of the German Romantic Kunstlied.
The idea seemed heavy to me, and German romanticism often evoked to me by connotation the European history marked by the Nazi episode of the 20th century which by distortion (as far as I am concerned) made any honest artistic approach impossible.
Despite the common language, this feeling was not shared by the two Swiss musicians who considered the poetic work as a formal abstraction to be taken in its context with irony or naively for the pleasure of its beauty.
In the idea then of finding a way to reflect the unease I felt at the idea of working in the pathetic duality between the naive and the ironic with this stylistically marked material, I decided to proceed to a sound production by replacing and collage these texts in a modern and current context and to reflect their apprehension by a contemporary: a young refugee, dying of thirst on a makeshift boat a few miles from the European coast.
Before disappearing, the refugee recites and sings these poems in which he had heard the promises of a better life.
These texts, with their light, romantic, amorous, sentimental, even erotic connotations, then become the formants of an absurd and grotesque collage in a context that is at the extremes of our humanist and civilization ideals. Transforming, what for a 19th century poet could be a love song with such a trivial occupation as having a double meaning, (and what later became part of the German poetic heritage), into a postcard full of the perversity of our societies, deposited at the centre of the humanitarian disaster that opens the 21st century.
The image shift therefore reflects the stylistic shift between H. Heine‘s prose and my conception of contemporary creative music. The friction that arises from this juxtaposition also resonates in the duality that oppose our political quarrels between the left and the right and the personal and collective decisions to be taken between commitment, resignation and liberalism. Just as in the too often still unequal relationships between men and women to constantly rethink within our society.
I focused my work on four affects that I associated successively with the four poems:
“Im wunderschönen Monat Mai”, “Aus meinen Tränen sprießen”, “Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne”, “Wenn ich in deine Augen seh”…
Hope – Irony – Bitterness – And resignation.
It is a work for fixed electronic support, in which I use the soundtrack as a support for the musicians in order to represent the set and gradually erase the border between electronics and acoustics, and between the objective set (the swell) and the introspection of the character, as between anachronism and contemporaneity. In the samples recorded to give the four songs their overall tone, we find some very familiar sounds today: a neon that sizzles, the waves of a magnetic field, the rolling of a concrete mixer…
Florian Schwamborn – Paris 2013