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Harry Partch, Ensemble Musikfabrik
Phillip Sollmann, Simon Steen-Andersen
Helge Sten

Betty Freeman / Lebrecht Music & Arts

In 2013 Harry Partch’s ‘Delusion of the Fury’ was revived for the Ruhrtriennale by Heiner Goebbels. For his production with the Ensemble Musikfabrik, the instruments which Partch designed were scrupulously reconstructed by Thomas Meixner. The visionary composer Partch had developed these instruments in the late 1940s and early 1950s in order to be able to produce adequate renditions of the microtonal intervals within his system of sounds. While ‘Delusion of the Fury’  was principally intended to allow Partch’s greatest work to be experienced once again, ‘Monophony’ asks questions about the future. What potential do we have now to work with Harry Partch’s range of instruments? How can Partsch’s acoustic world be re-contextualized or even expanded? With this in mind, the Ensemble Musikfabrik has recently commissioned musicians from a variety of aesthetic fields. Some of the results of these collaborations will now be presented within ‘Monophony’:

The piece from which the evening takes its name is by the Berlin DJ and techno producer Phillip Sollmann, who enjoys an international reputation on the club scene as Efdemin (and will also ap-pear in this guise at the Ruhrtriennale 2017 as part of Ritournelle). For his piece ‘Monophony’ Sollmann sampled Harry Partch’s entire collection of instruments on his computer in order to be able to compose directly using the files acquired in this way. Sollmann also uses instruments spe-cially constructed for this performance by Harry Bertoia’s son Val Bertoia and a double siren made by sonic researcher Hermann von Helmholtz, whose fundamental text ‘On the Sensations of Tone’ strongly influenced Partsch’s musical thinking.  The pieces created in this way were then trans-posed back into a score which is now performed by the Ensemble Musikfabrik. In ‘Monophony’ Sollmann makes great use of rhythmic accents which, combined with Michael Kleine’s stage de-sign and Peter Kisur from the Honey Suckle Company’s costumes, creates an atmospheric space full of concentrated potential that seems to look back on Partsch’s archaic North American world from the perspective of postmodern European pop culture. The piece’s world premiere was greet-ed with huge applause at the Volksbühne Berlin In February 2017.

Alongside Sollmann a composition by the Danish composer and installation artist Simon Steen-Andersen will also be presented.  While displaying his closest stylistic affinities with New Music, Steen-Andersen repeatedly focuses on multimedia arrangements and the choreographic aspects of musical performance.  

The Norwegian pop musician Helge Sten became famous in the 1990s for Project Deathprod, in which he used voices, glasses, theremin and tape machines to produce experimental music between ambient and noise. Helge Sten was also a member of the rock band Motorpsycho. The piece he has composed for Partch’s instruments is a contemplative inner journey which appears to target in particular the spiritual dimension of Partsch’s sonic cosmos.