Classical Music

Heiner Goebbels, A House of Call, My Imaginary Notebook, Ensemble Modern Orchestra, Vimbayi Kaziboni


A recent two-CD release has gotten my attention and I am happy to write about it today. It is a long, ambitious four-part work for orchestra and historical recorded sound by Heiner Goebbels; it is entitled A House of Call, My Imaginary Notebooks (ECM New Series 2728/289 2-CDS). The music has a fine complexity and expressiveness that is generally characteristic of the best High Modern works of the peak period for such things, only passing time and Goebbels’ encompassing grasp of our times means you can hear the most fired-up post-Stockhausenesque atonality alongside  Postmodern ritual depth and a definite reframing of some of the stylistic open and edgy Free Jazz demeanor.

It is a masterful work, very nicely performed and a surprise for its avant tendencies that one encounters less today on a label like ECM, so all the more welcome for that. The title suggests a line from Joyce;s Finnegan’s Wake. This work is inspired by this and the novel as a whole, and John Cage’s treatment of it in his Roaratorio. Beyond that Goebbels says it entails “a cycle of calls, invocations, incantations, acts of speech, poems and songs for large orchestra.” But the idea as he goes on to explain is how the orchestra is confronted by the recorded examples of speeches and ethnic vocalizations such as African chants, Persian classical vocals, and etc. The orchestra responds in kind or resists and sounds sometimes slightly contrarian in response. Finally the work is an elaborate, brilliant juxtaposition of the two forces of sound, of voice and instruments. These stylistic variables come out of  the recorded vocals and their ethnic periodicity out of a local folk or local classical genre. So Persian vocal elaboration is matched by an complementary droning, then a complex synchronicity by the orchestra, then African repetition or grooving is complemented by a Postmodern riffdom, etc.

The hearing and rehearing of the work takes place within the special sound world the work sets up. There is nothing quite like it. It has a breakthrough quality that feels futuristic. Listen to it and give it your attention and I think you will find it as exhilarating as I did! A milestone this seems to me, See what you think.

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