Eight radio plays based on texts by Heiner Mueller
Die Befreiung des Prometheus (The Liberation of Prometheus)
The Liberation of Prometheus is a prose text which Heiner Mueller has dropped into his play "Cement" like an erratic block - a real stumbling block for the theater which cannot do it justice with ordinary theatrical methods. Whether I can manage it, I don't know; but I'm trying - with independent musical means which, in the hierarchy of expressiveness, are not beneath the text but egual to it (with song forms, collages, flashbacks and the kind of editing used in films) - to make at least two things audible:
- the great fascination I feel at the unbelievable dimensions of work and time, filth and stench in the text,
- and the new (since Andre Gide and Kafka) political perspectives of myth interpretation with which Mueller humorously and incisively endows the double character of Prometheus: as the fire-stealing benefactor of mankind and the privileged guest at the table of the gods.
This enables me to make analogous association with other texts by Heiner Mueller (for example from his play "Der Auftrag") and let Prometheus drop 10000 years down (or up) as a mid-level employee in an elevator on his way to see the boss. Acceptance of oppression, nostalgia for the elevator, a longing for the beloved eagle on the rock - all these are stronger than the quest for altered living conditions.
Verkommenes Ufer (Despoiled Shore)
The text of the radio play "Despoiled Shore" is based on the first of three parts of "Despoiled Shore Medea Material Landscape with Argonauts", a stage play first performed in Bochum in 1983. Heiner Mueller wrote "Despoiled Shore" back in 1955.
The image of a lake shore near Straussberg which Heiner Mueller created in the fifties can be found today in our cities. In Berlin, Thorsten Becker asked fifty strangers - in various bars, penny arcades, on the street, in the Zoo Station, in the stations of the U-bahn and S-bahn - to read this text which was unknown to them. For my radio play, I used only this material, a text recorded exclusively in an urban environment - or what became of it at first reading - without musical instruments, without additional noises. I made music out of language utilizing montage and electronic processing.
The many different voices, recorded in Berlin, say more about themselves than professional language can say and they have one great advantage: the text is just as strange to them as to us - and thus we understand it better.
One can listen to the radio play the way one looks at a picture or reads a text: with pauses for associations and repetitions for 're-reading'.
The shore is despoiled, so is the text, and I don't want to prettify it.
In the text MAeLSTROMSOUTHPOLE, Heiner Mueller utilizes motives from "The Narrative of Gordon Pym" by Edgar Allan Poe. The long-winded diary entries by Poe which are used to shore up the supposed authenticity of these fictitious experiences are radically simplified. Mueller comes straight to the point: we are left with a powerful sense of the magnetic force exerted by the South Pole. What intrigued me in creating musical scenery for this brief page of text - in contrast to my other radio plays - was not the more or less artful connection of music and speech, but rather their separation reflecting the relationship between experience and description. Keeping the undertow which pulls Arthur Gordon Pym into the Antarctic cataract firmly ir view, I also concentrated for the first time on working with one voice (the voice of David Bennent). It is the same undertow which drives the fishermen into the whirlpool of the Lofoten Islands, the central motive in Poe's other story, "A Descent into the Maelstrom" which is quoted in Heiner Mueller's title.
Wolokolamsker Chaussee I-V (Volokolamsk Highway I-V)
total playing time: 77:36
1) Wolokolamsker Chaussee I (Russische Eröffnung) - length: 13:52
2) Wolokolamsker Chaussee II (Wald bei Moskau) - length: 14:25
3) Wolokolamsker Chaussee III (Das Duell) - length: 15:35
4) Wolokolamsker Chaussee IV (Kentauren) - length: 12:58
5) Wolokolamsker Chaussee V (Der Findling) - length: 16:20
Although the pieces refer directly and very concretely to the creation and development of the East German Republic, the main theme of all five historical segments is Heiner Mueller's confrontation with the tragic, eternal contradiction of the 'enemy in the mirror'.
That is why my aim in setting these texts to music and staging them is to use the narrative form of the monologue and its musical equivalent and to make the political perspective of these texts translatable for us: not by artful collage elaborations, but rather by furious direct transmissions into cultural realms which are at home here: by working with the (musical) collectives in my community - Frankfurt; and that is also why I tend to play a less active role as composer.
I hope in this way to be able to give the listener not only "the street of tanks" but also a street paved with the experiences of those who took part in the production.
This does not mean that I fabricate solutions for the conflicts that I have touched upon; I do not take the attitude that one of these five parts is the "right" one or that one of their political attitudes is the "message". What really interests me is the unsettled relationship between the various parts and an ever changing perspective.