Simon Steen-Andersen – Korpus (2015)
for 9 players on three Harry-Partch-instruments
Commissioned by the Salzburg Biennale
Dirk Rothbrust, Marimba Eroica
Benjamin Kobler, Chromelodeon
Carl Rosman, Bloboy
Janet Sinica, video/editing
Jan Böyng, editing
Julius Gass, recording producer/editing
So now they are all there, the instruments of Harry Partch – but what to do with them? It’s like Christmas: someone has unlocked the door to the big toy store, of course everyone rushes in, but then this happens: Some run from shelf to shelf with shining eyes and can hardly believe it, wanting to take everything home right away, another looks skeptical and prefers to look at the selection from a safe distance (let’s call him Klaus?), still another (Simon?) runs determinedly into a corner, pulls a few things out of the high stacks, ignores the rest, sits down on the floor and begins to curiously examine the finds. Does he know that these strange devices are called “Marimba Eroica,” “Blow boy,” and “Chromelodeon”? He doesn’t read the instruction manual, nor the enclosed rules of the game, preferring to make up his own mind about what he has found. Forty-three-step octave division? Upper and lower tone rows? Boring. Just press a key very carefully and see what happens. Exciting! Fill the bellows only halfway, tape the pipes shut, work on the large wooden plates with Styrofoam, aluminum foil and baking paper? Not a bad idea either.
Simon Steen-Andersen’s interest in theory is limited. He is interested in the concrete situation: how does it look, how does it feel, how does it move, how does it sound – and above all: how does all the input from our senses relate to each other? And because he himself is interested in the answers to such questions, on the one hand, and on the other hand also wants to interest us, his audience, in them, he attaches great importance to transparency, to open-visibility. Thus Steen-Andersen does not have his eight-person expedition team excavate various construction sites simultaneously, but one after the other. “Korpus” is in large parts organized analogously to the medieval Hoketus technique: a long musical line jumps from voice to voice. What happens, happens one after the other, nothing obscures anything else. When, toward the end, events do overlap slightly, it has, for a moment, almost the drama of a final fugue. But then Steen-Andersen quickly directs his team back to their places. The play with Harry Partch ends in blissful silence. Christmas was short but sweet.
Korpus was commissioned as part of the Pitch 43_Tuning the Cosmos project, in which composers in Europe are given the opportunity to study the Partch instrumentarium and write new pieces for it.