Scompositio (2014) 42′piccolo, accordiono – ob, cl, sax, cor, tr, tn – batt – female singer + binaural mics + mouth harmonica + piano – vn, vla, vc, cb



Commissioned by Maerzmusik Festival

In 1909, Emma Hauck, at thirty the mother of two children, was institutionalized with the diagnosis of schizophrenia. From the asylum, she wrote her husband letters that consisted of two words only: “Herzensschatzi, komm” (Come, my little heart). She set those words down over and over, filling many pieces of paper, turning text into texture. None of her illegible letters was mailed. No one ever came to visit her. She never saw her husband and children again.

A female singer is encircled by the ensemble. She wears binaural microphones that transmit the sound into the hall. Hence the audience listens from their own seats as well as with the singer’s ears, as it were, avoiding neither the sounds of her body nor her attempts to extract sound from instruments. The title of the piece derives from this acoustically split reality: scomponere in Italian means ‘to dismember’.

I see no sense in retelling Emma Hauck’s story for all its tragedy. My piece includes neither text nor biographic details. Rather, I aim to capture the very state of closure and of doubling, of dissociation. I am interested in the sound that results not only from phonation but also from listening. Maybe, I take too literally a quip of Stravinsky: “If composing implies the presence of psychological disorder, I am far from wishing to get rid of it. (Translated by Eugene Ostashevsky)

Premiere at Maerzmusik Berlin, Radial System, March 2014

Natalia Pschenitchnikova, voice; KNM Berlin cond. by Fedor Lednev; Torsten Ottersberg, sound engineering