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Donaueschinger Musiktage World Premiere

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Ensemble Modern will give the world premiere of shouting forever into the receiver at Donaueschinger Musiktage on 16 October. Commissioned by the festival, the piece’s title is a line from Ocean Vuong’s novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, describing a tiny green plastic toy solider perpetually fixed in this action. When I first read this phrase, it reminded me of the shouts and cries, not only of the Plantations, but those of the Plantation Machine, its ongoing feedback loop system, despite the passing of time. Creolised sites of connectivity are the Machine’s output. Indeed, as Édouard Glissant says in Poetics of Relation:this was the cry of the Plantation, transfigured into the speech of the world.”

In the piece, spoken extracts from the Book of Revelation are passed back and forth between two walkie talkie radios: “the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.” An expansive central harmonica chorale section shifts the sound world into a new meditative, prayerful place and space through the simple repetition of breathing into, and drawing breath from an instrument associated with Afro-diasporic sorrow. Throughout, pre-programmed music boxes playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, and Für Elise; Mozart’s Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman; and Strauss’ The Blue Danube tirelessly repeat truncated tinkling versions of the originals, linking the present back to the time when these well-known historical works were first written; during the establishment of the Plantations.

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