Tilman Hecker (director) und Dominikus Müller (dramatic adviser)
“Practices of storytelling matter”, according to anthropologist Marilyn Strathern – they have
substance – real matter. Because they “make the world”, and literally determine how we see and hear, how we decode and interpret and how we act upon our insights.
The Christian narrative of salvation is just such a story, a text of world understanding and
world creation – even where it has supposedly been abandoned in secular contemporary life. This story obeys a specific narrative arc with a concrete expectation of the future. At the end of the world there are the horrors of the apocalypse, the return of Christ, and heaven. Or hell. It is a regime that separates, divides, judges.
Composing the “Missa solemnis”, Beethoven dealt intensively with the Christian liturgy and its canonical text, which has been handed down and consolidated over the centuries. He set it tomusic, interpreting and editing the story as he did so. The focus is on the text and its message. As a consequence, the “Missa solemnis” lacks the development from a thematic cell otherwise typical of Beethoven’s work. Instead, new motifs constantly emerge and rarely linger in the ear.
The starting point of the concert installation THE WORLD TO COME is Beethoven’s “Missa solemnis”. Specifically, the title refers to the powerful fugue that Beethoven wrote about the four Latin words “Et vitam venturi saeculi” – the life of the world to come. No composer before or after Beethoven has ever written such a complex, extensive and highly dramatic fugue based on those words – completely different from his “Mass in C-major”, completely different from e.g. the angel’s voice in Haydn’s “Nelson Mass” or the setting that creates an almost fleeting impression in Bach’s “Mass in B-minor”. Consequently, the message is completely different. We take this climax of polyphony as inspiration to propose a new, expanded polyphony, in which – just as with Beethoven – one must be aware of and secure in one’s own voice but simultaneously listen to all the other voices.
For this installation we invited five artists from different musical traditions to explore the
“Missa solemnis”: Birke J. Bertelsmeier, Colin Self, Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, Moor Mother, and Planningtorock. Rather like a string game – loosely based on Donna Haraway, who speaks of “sf”: string figures, science fiction, speculative feminism – we have placed this text and its message, as well as Beethoven’s interpretation firmly into the hands of our guests.
It was important to us to extend an open invitation, and one that was kept open during the
course of the work. Because we are convinced that the world to come cannot be found in an elaborated vision, a scene projected into the future, for which it is only necessary to fill certain roles. The future is a political category of the present in as much as it must be negotiated – here and now and under the current conditions. And often enough, it becomes clear that we rarely speak of the same future. Continuous conversation, reciprocal study, listening, awareness of one’s own voice together with tolerance for
other opinions and a sensitivity to other stories are vital, therefore. The present is polyphonic through and through. We need only to admit it.
THE WORLD TO COME is all about bringing together different musical voices and traditions that can merge but also – where necessary – stand side by side as equals in contradiction, sometimes also revealing power structures and hierarchies. Equally, different publics with different listening habits and sensitivities should also mix. In the end, the world to come is created in such a clash of many worlds; in the fact that no one avoids difficulties; in the fact that we “let the world come” in all of its radical worldliness – and that history and stories are told differently. In the beginning, in the words of D.H. Lawrence, there was not the word, but a chirrup.More about THE WORLD TO COME