13 October 2023, Miranda Heggie, theARTSdesk.com
Review (en)

Songs of Wars I Have Seen, - moving portrayal of wartime diaries

Heiner Goebbels' singular take on World War Two has poignant contemporary relevance

Songs of Wars I Have Seen is an hour-long through=composed work by contemporary German composer Heiner Goebbels which combines the music of 17th century composer Matthew Locke, the text from the wartime diaries of American Jewish writer Gertude Stein and Goebbels’s own ingenious musical and dramatic ideas. [...]

Like a lot of writing from that time, Stein’s diaries capture as much of the mundanity and funny quirks of wartime living as well as her thoughts on the atrocities happening around her. In the post concert discussion, Goebbels mentioned his mother’s comment that he’d never lived through a war, and that’s probably true for most of the audience too. While in the UK we read of war in Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Israel and Gaza, the majority of Brits have zero lived experience of being in a war zone. It’s hard to comprehend the absurd awfulness of it all; perhaps by talking of things to which most of us can relate - the taste of honey, neighbourhood gossip, the state of one’s footwear - we can garner more affinity with the uglier, scarier experiences of someone living through a war.[...]

Though most of its subject matter is from World War Two, this work is troublingly relevant today. Perhaps a piece such as this, which encourages personal contemplation rather than dictating a narrative, can be, in some small way, a tool to encourage a deeper human understanding.

on: Songs of Wars I have seen (Music Theatre)