About the music
This score was written to accompany a 2011 production at MeetFactory, Prague (dir. Katharina Schmitt) in which Ivana Uhlířová shifted between presenting four characters- a psychiatric doctor, Elfriede Jelinek, Robert Walser and the actor herself. The instrumentation of the score reflects this fracturing of personality, using a combination of acoustic, amplified and electronic instruments.
The music makes use of what Schoenberg termed klangfarbenmelodie (‘tone colour melody’): while traditional composition prizes melody and harmony (in essence, an ear-pleasing sequence of changes in pitch), klangfarbenmelodie instead focuses on changes in timbre and quality of the notes: on a guitar, for example, many notes can be played in different positions on the fretboard, with each note having a different quality.
About the play
On není jako on (German: Er nicht als er ) is a play by the German Nobel Prize winning writer Elfriede Jelinek, dedicated to the late 19th century Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956).
In 1929 Walser voluntarily committed himself to a sanatorium for the mentally ill, where he wrote very little until his death. The play itself takes place in a psychiatric clinic, and has no protagonist- though the stage directions state that several people are present, none of them are named or described. It’s hard to pin down a definitive meaning in the script, as it’s a meditation on numerous subjects- fairy tales, myths, loneliness, isolation, the nature of art and writing, and ultimately death itself.
On neni jako on uses this principle by way of a simple, four chord structure spread across the instruments, repeating and restating the melody lines in different octaves and rhythmic patterns, using a variety of playing techniques to produce the notes, as well as numerous combinations of the instruments themselves, to create a constantly changing sound within a static harmonic structure.
Just as the idea of character and meaning are buried in the dense writing, so the music is swathed in crackle and hum, along with processed recordings of the rehearsal process, whose volume swells and fades around the instruments. The result is a slowly-developing piece that immerses the listener in the opaque world of the play, and the mind of a writer isolated of his own free will.
‘cello performed by Nicole Robson [www.nicolerobson.com]
…one step beyond ambient, one step beyond drone … On není jako on is what it sounded like in Josef K.’s ear when he was being run ragged by a faceless bureaucracy in The Trial, a mind-clouding tintinnabulation. [Igloo Magazine]
About the release
There are only 72 numbered and initialled copies of the CD, entirely printed letterpress. The handmade slipcase is covered in Conqueror laid paper, printed with wooden and metal type, inked in multiple colours with hand rollers, making each case unique. The inner sleeve is set in Bembo Condensed Italic type, and the CDs themselves are finished with a brush pen.
The album is also available as a digital download.
Released on 31st March 2014
One hour, four chords, numerous permutations: the idea shouldn’t work, but it does … the album’s greater beauty lies in the unifying layer of electronics, static and recorded tape layered atop the instrumentation like a gauze strip [A Closer Listen]