Foto: Georg Weckwerth
“When I was invited to create a sound installation for a public passageway between buildings in Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier, I quickly realized the essential features of what I wanted to do: not an electronically manipulated sound environment (as might have been expected), but something soft – yes, even “beautiful” – that would stimulate people to listen closely and, hopefully, to linger. I spontaneously imagined a euphonious text, more defined by sound than content, recited by a chorus of mellifluous female voices and interspersed with the celesta’s ethereal tones, musically derived from the text.
Naturally, many foreign-speaking visitors would also be frequenting the museum passageway, so I thought about simple phrases from an artificial world language. At first, I went back and forth between Volapük, a generally forgotten a priori language, and Esperanto – an a posteriori language that also is barely still alive – which, with its borrowings from many natural languages, evokes manifold semantic associations without providing the uninitiated listener with a definite meaning. Thus, one enjoys primarily its pleasing sonority – a consideration that tipped the scales for Esperanto.
The twelve-minute text cycle, repeated in an endless loop, consists of twenty-four phrases (an allusion to the number of hours in a day). These are arranged in two groups of six, two groups of four, two groups of two, and two single phrases. The celesta sequence, sounding after each group, is based on five augmented triads that totally encompass the chromatic scale in two whole-tone complexes. Each of these chords, matched with the five vowels in Esperanto, echoes the vowel sequence in the previously recited text excerpt. The already musical effect of the words here becomes perfectly pure sound. In this way, the music develops a sound pattern that recalls the flow of the language. The end of a cycle is marked by an accord of the five spoken vowels with the chords that represent them.
And so a busy passageway becomes a place of calm, a place to reflect upon harmonized time.”
[Translation: AK Lerner]