"Prayer to the Unknown Gods of the People Without Rights" (2002/05)
for ensemble with an improvising soloist
to Peter Brötzmann
cl, bcl, alto sax, bar sax, bsn/cbsn, 2 trp, 2 trb, 4 perc, piano, 2 vln, vla, vcl, db, 30’
completely composed piece for ensemble is confronted with a soloist who
completely improvises his part. This concept becomes particularly gripping
if the soloist is a musical personality like Peter Brötzmann, one
of the most consequent and powerful expressive musicians of our epoch.
A composition which ‘features’ such a soloist requires an ensemble part which would not refrain from density and high demands, to create an equal counterweight to Brötzmann, in my own language of course, without ever imitating his.
The work process may remotely remind of Duke Ellington’s way to compose and arrange his music especially for his soloists, although there are no ‘themes’ in Prayer... for the soloist to improvise about. I consider the composition as musical material and structures which the soloist is completely free to include or comment in his improvisation or not, and which may put a new, perhaps unexpected, complexion on his personal style. At no time it is determined if or how Brötzmann should react and play. The composition provides a musical scope, sometimes provocative, in which he can act freely. The challenge is to create an actual dialogue between predetermined and instantaneous music.
If this piece will be performed more than once an intensifying alteration, perhaps maturing, of the interpretation of the composed ensemble music could also be assumed. It may be as adventurous for conductor and ensemble players to have their interpretation of a complex score be confronted with an always unknown solo part at each performance.
The term ‘people without rights’ is quoted from Noam Chomsky’s book A New Generation Draws the Line on the NATO invasion in Kosovo, led by Germany and the USA in 1999, and the state terror and genocide in East Timor which has been financed and supported by the USA since 1975, both quite effective expressions of ‘humanitarian interventions’ and ‘moral values’, as the new vocabulary for violent enforcement of economic interest and obedience towards the ‘world police’ reads since the end of the 20 th century.
More people without rights are Cubans, practically all South Americans, black Africans, Kurds, Afghanis, Palestinians, Iraqis, Persians, to name but a few. The western ‘democratic’ powers have deprived the majority of this world’s population of any basic rights, and the list of directly threatened cultures keeps growing continuously while globally a forced monoculture is being installed.
In such circumstances, music, as well as any artistic manifestation, must be considered an invocation of whatsoever beyond ideology and greed, be it the enlightened, humanist spirit which is bound to proceed into the irrational to maintain and renew its independency.
Prayer to the Unknown Gods of the People Without Rights is the third ensemble composition of a trilogy composed under the direct influence of the political situation of the last decade. The first two pieces are my piano concerto Entre deux guerres (1996-98), and Verdichtung (2001-02) which was written for Ensemble Modern, commissioned by the festival MaerzMusik, Berlin 2002.
The first version of Prayer... was commissioned by the festival Die 3.Art, Wuppertal 2002, and performed with Peter Brötzmann and the chamber orchestra of Musikhochschule Wuppertal, conducted by Werner Dickel. The revised version of 2005 was commissioned by Ensemble Modern.
Dietrich Eichmann, November 2005