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Here Trilogy premiered at Berlin Festival

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ASKO | Schönberg

Michel van der Aa travelled to Berlin last month for the first complete performance of his Here trilogy, a 60-minute cycle of works for soprano, chamber orchestra and soundtrack built up between 2001 and 2003. The performers at the successful Berlin Festival performance were soprano Barbara Hannigan and the combined forces of the Asko Ensemble and Schoenberg Ensemble conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw. A further complete performance is scheduled for Ars Musica in Brussels on 4 March conducted by Etienne Siebens, while the constituent works in the Trilogy continue to enjoy active independent lives.

The Here trilogy opens with Here [enclosed] for chamber orchestra and soundtrack, and a question is posed immediately by the presence on stage of a black plexiglass cabin the size of a telephone booth. This object is mirrored musically by a process of containment in which the soundtrack hems in the sounds of the orchestral instruments. The climax comes with the eventual disclosure of the cabin’s contents, a female deus ex machina. The soprano assumes centre stage in Here [in circles], searching for identity as she records herself and the ensemble in real time. Her rewinding, fast forwarding, and playing back of the tape generates a tense feeling of cyclical imprisonment that is only partly relieved by her final schizophrenic duetting with herself on tape. In the closing work, Here [to be found], the orchestral music is absorbed into the soundtrack, and the soprano searches for points of connection with the ‘real’ and ‘shadow’ world surrounding her.

“Michel van der Aa writes music that is similar in its effect to photography…music as an art of time is detached from time itself, and sounds become snapshots of a process. Potential developments are immediately blocked by interruptions, flashbacks, unexpected repetitions. The doubling of music through an electronic shadow, through the particles which were recorded and played back as insertions into the live music, creates a kind of multiple exposure…the impression of the music is strong and emotionally draining.”
— Berliner Zeitung

“Michel van der Aa translates his subject matter in a remarkable manner – separation, paralysis, isolation, fracture…he suggests with snapping noises, sudden breaks and unexpected flashbacks an unstable control of reality that increasingly shows signs of cracking.”
— Der Tagesspiegel