9. April 2020

Lockdown Tapes #2


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Liza LimWild Winged-One (2007) aria for solo trumpet in C (with wacky whistle)

Marco Blaauw, trumpet

Janet Sinica, video

Lockdown Tape #2 is a live to tape recording of the piece “Wild Winged-One” by Liza Lim, recorded by Marco Blaauw. On the blog, he tells what he finds captivating about the solo piece and what motivates him to perform the piece anew.

When I heard some excerpts from Liza Lim’s opera “the Navigator” in 2007, I was immediately captivated by the music and the subject matter.
Not long after that, I got to know Liza’s work for trumpet – “Wild Winged-One.” This solo is composed of passages from one of the main characters of the opera, the “Angel of History.”Lim’s character was inspired by Walter Benjamin’s description of the “Angelus Novus,” a drawing by Paul Klee. Benjamin writes of the drawing:

“… His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress…”

“Wild Winged-One” is not a composition with a clear beginning and end, but rather an excerpt from a monologue.  We listeners witness for about 9 minutes how this angel perceives our world. Walter Benjamin’s text from 1940 seems to me to be highly relevant.  The figure of the angel does not stop with the last note of the solo work, but continues to exist, tries to speak, scream, fight, with a tense, distorted voice, constantly, agitated, excited, shaken, without being able to free itself from the catastrophic consequences of our so-called progress.

This figure in the opera was shocking to me the first time I heard it. I still feel disturbed by the text and the music today. But at  the same time, this terror, which one experiences through the work of Klee, in the text by Benjamin and in the music by Liza Lim – quasi through the eyes of the angel – also offers an uncanny beauty.

The language of the angel is complex, multi-layered, meaningful. I feel a strong impulse to keep trying, practicing and performing it – to put myself into this figure again and again and again.

Liza Lim Wild Winged One (2007)
for solo trumpet with wacky whistle

Wild Winged One is a kind of ‘resetting’ of some fragments from my opera The Navigator written when I was living in Berlin in 2007. In the opera, the trumpet is especially associated with the ‘Angel of History’ a part-human, part-animal-bird, part-divine figure of prophecy and witness.  The solo trumpet piece is made of ‘parentheses’ of human-animal breaths, murmurs and radiant vibration in a structure of ‘commentaries inside commentaries’.  It includes the word ‘inside’ from the opera libretto:

Text by Patricia Sykes from Scene 3 of The Navigator libretto

the comet in its coma
sings of the erotic bathings
of a man inside a woman
inside a man who makes love
with water, sings of a woman
inside a man inside a woman
who makes love with a comet
sings of a comet inside a glacier
inside an engine whose twin aortas
deliver blood-rain or tide-blood
sings of a doubt so cold

it breeds ice