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MONO.KULTUR EXCERPTS #01: MANFRED EICHER

Every now and then and when we feel like it, let us post here excerpts from previous issues of mono.kultur, as they are always worth going back to. For the grey and rainy transition from autumn to winter, no issue is more appropriate than mono.kultur #26 on the melancholy and stark music label ECM and its legendary founder Manfred Eicher which indeed begins with impressions of winter:

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As I trudged through the first snow of the year recently, I thought: With the snow comes the silence. Is winter the season from which your musical aesthetics arise?

Autumn, more likely. On Lake Constance – where I come from – autumn brings winds and a special light. I used to go down to the lake just to watch the movement of the waves. A powerful experience, also musical.

Maybe it was the inspiring sequence in Godard’s film Nouvelle Vague – for which you provided the music – that also made me think of winter. Off-camera we hear someone saying, ‘It is still winter, but a gentle brightness informs the wisp of fog. A fiery wreath outlines a grey cloud in the evening sky – a sign of light.’

Poetry and language were important for this film. In Nouvelle Vague, repetition is a theme with variations. Almost every line in the script is a quote from writers as diverse as Chandler, Rimbaud, Lacan, Proust and Keats. Dante is particularly significant. A dark male voice speaks at the opening of the film above Dino Saluzzi’s Andina, Winter: ‘But I wanted to make a story out of it, and I still do. Nothing that might disturb my memory should intrude from the outside. Sometimes I hear the earth softly groaning; its surface is furrowed. I’m content with the shadow of a poplar tree that I know is standing behind me, solitary in its sorrow.’ In Nouvelle Vague, the gardener of the estate is the character that ties together the strands of poetry and philosophy. Water is ‘quoted’ in this film, and trees, too. Nouvelle Vague was my first collaboration with Godard. If I associate it specifically with winter, it’s because I prepared myself for this film in winter. Autumn and winter: Those are the seasons I like best.

You grew up with the music of Schubert, who set his Wanderer in the winter. Is this figure, travelling to unknown destinations, through shades of loneliness, one you feel close to in your own past or personality?

I feel close to Schubert’s music. In order to shape and experience music with the dedication I try to bring to it, I’ve had to distance myself again and again, to escape from noisy surroundings, to detach myself and withdraw. Every now and then, I do just that. To me, it’s essential to take a rest after an intense studio session, even if I continue to be in other’s company. Then I think of something different from what surrounds me, or I withdraw to another city or to the sea.

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