Heiner Goebbels/ Heiner Muller

The Man in the Elevator

“Unorthodox” is a word that only begins to describe the music of Heiner Goebbels. His compositions mesh narrative text with avant—garde instrumental support and the result is a fascinating aural collage or “aural drama” as he describes it. The narrative weaves in and out of German, English, and French — often juxtaposing two languages at a time, with a delivery that’s very conscious of the effect of rhythm and inflection. The musicians complement the text, weaving in and out of jazz, rock, and folk “languages,” often also juxtaposing two at a time, with a delivery that’s very conscious of the effect of words and phrases. The result is far from a clamorous experiment, but rather like the osmosis of thoughts and sounds in the mind of a man trapped in an elevator. The content of the story is matched by the experience created by its presentation; a remarkable effect. The Man in the Elevator is taken from the play The Mission, written by Germany’s most prolific contemporary playwright, Heiner Muller. Goebbels has collaborated with Muller in the past and relies on the strength and density of his word as a “weakly written text would disintegrate into meaninglessness were it put through this kind of process.” His partners in reconstructing the relationship between text and music are some of New York’s finest musicians: Don Cherry, Fed Firth, ' Arto Lindsay, Ned Rothenberg, and George Lewis. The Man in the Elevator is a strange, sophisticated cousin of rap music that initially seems to answer the question “what is out?” but may actually be the premonition to “what is next?”

Gene Ferriter
Rhythm (GB), 1 August 1989