World Premiere · Martin Stauning · Gestures

Martin Stauning is featured at the upcoming KLANG festival with a new piece for singer, electronics and gestures. Edition·S spoke with the composer while the piece was still in progress.

Martin Stauning. Photo: Caroline Bittencourt
“It is a staged sound performance for singer and electronic soundtrack,” Martin Stauning explains about 
Gestures which will be premiered by Ly Tran on 4 November. An essential inspiration for the piece comes from reading about Parkinson's, a degenerative disease with a number of characteristic involuntary movements and postures included in the list of symptoms. Martin Stauning calls the persona in the performance The Patient. “The overall expression of The Patient is impassive. She seems to live in her own world, not acting for an audience, but rather addressing herself or her own perceived interlocutors.” Ly Tran has selected texts for the piece, and like the gestures of the patient degenerates, the texts are deconstructed. “I find it difficult to write music for lyrics,“ Martin Stauning admits. “The text carries so much meaning in itself. The first poem is performed in its entirety, but as the piece progresses, I deconstruct the texts and try to transfer the meaning to the music and the gestures instead.”   

The deconstruction is furthermore reproduced in the electronic soundtrack made from all sorts of sound recordings as well as excerpts from recordings of other works by Stauning, processed and distorted beyond recognition. “It is a very different way of working than what I am used to,” Martin Stauning says. “You get the auditive response to your ideas immediately. You don’t have to wait for an ensemble or an orchestra to play it, but that makes it hard not to keep on changing small details of every tiny little sound again and again. When you write for an orchestra, you just have to trust that the result sounds as you imagined it”  

The works speak to each other
Martin Stauning has been busy lately. His 
After the Party a Feather Floats Beneath the Ceiling was premiered a few weeks ago, and a new Harp Concerto for the Danish National Symphony Orchestra just recently saw the light of day in the print workshop of Edition·S. “The works do somehow speak to each other,” Martin Stauning says when asked if there is an overflow from one composition to another. “After the Party... ends with a small harp solo which points to the harp concerto and actually the beginning of the soundtrack for Gestures is a sampled tone from a harp,” he says and continues. “In the harp concerto, the orchestra reacts to a gesture from the harp, in Gestures that same idea is turned around, and the soundtrack incites the actions of the soloist, the patient. Quite a few elements from my works somehow return to visit each other. I guess I need it to be slightly connected in a way. Otherwise, each piece might run wild and that empty piece of paper becomes impossible to deal with.”  

Despite all connections, Gestures is rather different from most of the pieces from the past few years carrying Martin Staunings signature. “I realize now that I really like working with the electronic and staged elements. I want to oppose my “usual” expression just a little bit. You become ‘the composer who writes that kind of music’ in no time,” Martin Stauning states and insists that he is not offended to be given a label as this or that kind of composer. “But it tends to be self-reinforcing, and it is important to me to keep challenging myself in what I do. That is why it is so great to get a commission from someone as open-minded as Ly Tran.” 

Martin Stauning: Gestures (World Premiere)
Performed by Ly Tran
KLANG festival
4 November 20.00
KoncertKirken, Copenhagen (DK)

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