totenkopf

2016-17

totenkopf
for duo
Instrumentation: piccolo & oboe or piccolo & Eb clarinet
Premiere: (clarinet version)30 april 2017, Brussels; Katrien Gaelens, flute – Dries Tack, clarinet
Duration: approx. 9 minutes
Commissioned by: (clarinet version) Odysseia Ensemble
Score: Contact the composer

Program note:
‘Whereas in the symbol destruction is idealized and the transfigured face of nature is fleetingly revealed in the light of redemption, in allegory the observer is confronted with the facies hippocratica (totenkopf) of history as a petrified primordial landscape. Everything about history that from the very beginning has been untimely, sorrowful, unsuccessful, is expressed in a face – or rather in a death’s head.’ (W. Benjamin)

This piece started off as what could perhaps be labelled a ‘transit piece’ in the context of the cycle einbahnstraße. This is even (somewhat naively) represented in the work by the transitions in register in the 2 instruments: the piccolo beginning with its very lowest note and always aiming upwards; and the other instrument’s opposite route. But this allegorical transit is constantly unsuccessful; other material breaking through and piling themselves up and what could be simple becomes complex and fragmented.

totenkopf exists in 2 versions: for piccolo and oboe or for piccolo and Eb clarinet.

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