D’MONSTRANTZ VÖÖGELI ("Demonstration Birds")
(tekst: Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930) – sung in German) for 12 vocal soloists and birds (on tape/cd)
“D´Monstrantz Vöögeli” is the main (and middle) movement of my three-movement choir suite “The Alarming Duckling”, the title of which is borrowed from a painting from 1959 by the Danish artist Asger Jorn, a painting which - as this choral piece - is partly based on “found objects”: Asger Jorn painted on top of an idyllic old fashioned landscape painting with a house and trees - and he painted a very disturbing, alarming duckling. It may be ugly, the duckling, but in any case it is most peculiar in its surroundings, with spontaneous, colorful, wide painted feathers, standing and looking dreamy beyond a birch in the golden light of the afternoon (a very big duckling, indeed!)
In “D´Monstrantz Vöögeli” the dark nightly visions are unfolding with texts by the Swiss schizophrenic artist Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930). His transcending poems, prose, paintings and ideas inspired me for many compositions in the 1980s, i.e. Symphony nr. 4 (“Indischer Roosen-Gaarten und Chinesischer Hexensee” – Hommage a Wölfli”), The opera The Divine Circus and a series of choral works.
The piece is written for 12 vocal soloists – singing, whistling, screaming and whispering.
In “D´Monstrantz Vöögeli” - for a choir of humans and birds - many “found objects” are used: The tape/cd only contributes with unmanufactured birdsong – even though using full, half and fourth speed, so it is easier to understand and learn from the brilliant birds (especially the fantastic American Musician Wren, dominating the first part of the piece). The singers try to learn from the birds and also to introduce fragments of poems and nonsense rhymes by Adolf Wölfli, matching the rhythm in the Musician Wren´s singing and ´croaking´.
The virtuoso Musician Wren uses all 12 chromatic tones, and my task in the process of composition was an precise notation of the incredible and long 12tone-melody, which I distributed to the 12 singers and arranged in different ways.
After passages of part-singing, whistling male choir, and all sorts of birds combined the movement ends with a tune (Spotted Nightingale Thrush) with the words by Wölfli:
“It is more blessing to die than to live,
the Holy Ghost said,
since then I see everything in green”.
“D´Monstrantz Vöögeli” was composed for and premiered 1985 by vocal group Ars Nova, conducted by Ivan Hansen – commissioned by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and its founder Knud W. Jensen.
Per Nørgård (1985)