In the peak of the composition a quotation of Gustav Mahler (X. Symphony, Adagio, bar 206) appears in its completeness for the first and only time. From the beginning this bar will build up and after reaching the peak tone down in the same schematic way.
This compositional procedure would be possible with any other „old master“, to whom one would like to pay reverence, the reverence to Mahler however is appropriate in the compositional procedure itself: To compose nearness and distance within the passing time.
Spatial hearing depends on our perceptive faculties. It places the sounds in space. The most distant sound is at the same time the one we perceive most indistiactual . Our uncertainty inperceiving sounds causes in us a feeling of backgrounds, because it determines the degree of nearness and distance of sounds. And as the time for an observant hearing is missing to correct of the lack of distinctus - sounds do not „freeze“ but last on and change and test our ability of perception - we feel the background as a temporal dimension too. The distance is also the past moment (Was it presence at all?) and the nearness, which is clearly recognited is a moment of presence which immediatly evaporates.
Against the background of cluster formations „ascending“ bar 206 by Mahler sounds a music forming permanently backgrounds in itself. They result once from the dynamic covering (a pppp played tone sounds to a con vibrato played tone far away in the same time) as well through two different kinds of tone articulation which cover them mutually. The senza vibrato played tone is the background to a con vibrato played tone at the same time. This gives a sound impression of a music created on an old two channeled tape in a multiplay procedure with many inter mix downs: Deep staggered backgrounds, are not lost in the white noise but in the clusters.
The building of backgrounds results further from the fact that the offered sounds are of a certain incompleteness of a meaningful musical figure. The fragmentary prevents its intentionality, which would prove it as a figure in front of the background. The lacking order being in it makes it difficulty for us to filter it in front of the enormous background of disordered cluster.
The perception of meaningful musical figures is made more difficult by the fact that the entire dynamic (with one exception: the compound quotation of bar 206) is extended from pppp to p, such „low“ instruments as alto flute, bass flute, A-clarinet, bass clarinet, viola, 2 cellos, double bass and the strings of a grand piano beaten with timpany mallets are used, and the range of tones extends from subcontra A to g1.
The music is static at first sight only. It contains a movement of changing backgrounds in which the dynamic covering and our continous insecurity of perception are processes of fading. The tempo of these processes is slow and contains several moments of slowdown. It is a music rather indistinctly to move than that it really moves.
In a certain way „Background“ is a work in progress. The covered and incomplete elements of the first part before the peak of the quotation of bar 206 will be raised dynamically and presented as a finished composed figure in part two. The relation from figure to background contains more selectivity to facilitate (re)-recognition. The figures will be released from their rigidity and will become lively with individual vibrato presented musical characters. Musical signs such as slurs, accents, tenuto signs, indications like dolce, espressivo, cantabile, „Wie ein Ruf“ („Like a call“), „Wie fernes Glockenläuten“ (Like far bell ringing“), „Wie eine Fanfare“ („Like a fanfare“) are used in order to give this repitition a special kind of clarity. The experience of perception is different from the first part. We feel repetition like to listen to something which we assume to have heard it before and somewhere. And of the same time we perceive it for the first and only time.
The participation of the listener in this work in progress is a listening penetrated by memories. The feedback on the prefabricated in the first part is of great importance because now the composition „fullfilled“ itself. In this sense „Background“ is not a static music too.
The reconstruction of past sound figures as well as their completion resembles a memory process, a listening back in the flow of time. The background as an element of spatial and temporal distance changes its sense. In memory it becomes nearness and present time and points beyond that.
(Program reference to the premiere 1989 on the occasion of the Gustav Mahler Fest in Hamburg)
More Infos: ENSEMBLE "Background"