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Heiner Goebbels

A House of Call, My Imaginary Notebook

Release Date: August 26, 2022

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1 I. Stein Schere Papier - Introitus (A Response to Repons)  
2 Immer den gleichen Stein  
3 Under Construction  
4 III. Wax cylinders and violence - Toccata (Vowels-Woven)  
5 Achtung Aufnahme  
6 Nun danket alle Gott  
7 Ti gu go Iniga mi (Some of them say)  
8 VI. When words gone - Bakakl - (Dialogo).  
9 Schlaft ein Lied in allen Dingen  
10 What When Words Gone  
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A  cycle of invocations, prayers, poems and songs for large orchestra, A House of Call incorporates recordings of sounds and voices from all over the world collected by Heiner Goebbels during his travels, research, and chance encounters. The cycle is a response to the history of these recordings and to their complexity, rawness and radiance. In this secular “responsorium”, the orchestra accompanies and supports the voices, answers and challenges them. The voices call, Goebbels says, “either from the past or from my personal environment; idiosyncratic voices, traditional folk material. Rituals. Literature...”

“A House of Call is a magnificent new work,” the Financial Times enthused, reviewing the premiere performance. “Goebbels understands that music is theatre and knows how to construct a taut dramaturgy. He grabs the listeners by the lapels and drags them rapidly through the changing scenery of polyglot poetry and crackling phonograph recordings.”

The work’s title derives from a passage, in James Joyce’s associatively dense Finnegans Wake, about “a prolonged visit to a house of call”. The phrase appears, Goebbels notes, “not far from the onomatopoetic ‘roaratorio’ that was to give John Cage’s radio play its name.  A radio play that left a lasting impression on me...” The stream of utterances in Cage’s play finds an echo in A House of Call, where “le grain de la voix” – in Roland Barthes’ famous phrase – links the elements and acknowledges the commonality of the voices that have found their way into Heiner Goebbels’s “imaginary notebook.”

The vocal, literary and musical frame of reference is very broad. The four part A House of Call begins with a response to Pierre Boulez’s Répons, and takes off from there, along the way encompassing references to Cassiber (Goebbels’ art rock band of the 1980s), to German dramatist Heiner Müller, Kazakh singer Amre Kashaubayez, Persian Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi, Armenian composer and folk music collector Komitas, Iranian musician Hamidreza Nourbakhsh, and much more. Songs of Georgian prisoners, taped in the First World War, belong to the sonic mosaic, as do songs and poems from Namibia, fragments of an Amazonian ritual, and the resonance of a Berlin building site. Rhymes, laments and incantations figure in the fourth section, “When Words Gone”, which incorporates lines from one of Samuel Beckett’s last works.

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