Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Dick Raaijmakers - Ballad 'Erlkönig'

I find this piece uplifting, but it sounds like Dick was maybe on a little bit of a bummer when he "wrote" it. Here's the composer in his own words (translated presumably from Dutch by Keith Freeman):

"Ballad is an epic, melodramatic piece. All the sounds which occur in it are originally radio-telegraph and radio-telephone signals: signs of survival from the slums of the realms of the ether - the domain of the short waves. Ballad is characterized by the absence of both acoustic and cultural DEPTH. It has only LENGTH (= duration) and HEIGHT (= loudness). Ballad takes place in the poor man's realm of formlessness, from where incomprehensible messages, couched in tiny signals, noises, rattles, notes, chords and voices, emerge in an unbroken stream; apparently at each other's expense, but also sometimes in unsuspected blossoming configurations, they form reflections of as many human attempts to live and to survive. This reign of shadows, where meaningful and meaningless aspects of the in origin always significant human sounds continually change places, is dominated by cries, hardly by speech, and by music not at all.
In Ballad the amalgam of these cries forms the labyrinth where Erlkönig (a ruler of the Underwold) manifests himself to a little boy, who is fatally ill and is taken by his father on a swift and wild journey on horseback through an inhospitable region of darkness and threat to a castle which holds the boy's salvation. It will be recalled that Erlkönig, the father and the little boy fail to communicate with each other satisfactorily during the journey, each of them interpreting in their own way the passing nocturnal landscape and the fate it holds in store for the boy. Ballad is an account of these events: it reproduces the ever changing moods of the three in a paramusical meeting of the linguistically rich lines of Goethe on the one side with on the other hand the linguistically impoverished multi-interpretable signals from the domain of the ether.
When the cloud of dust the father has raised across the land of those bereft of language or music has dispersed to some extent, and Erlkönig's kingdom with its fairies, lakes, noises, draperies, phantoms and illusions collapses before the eyes of the accessary boy, through what we would nowadays call a neglected cold, the singing from the ether continues uninterruptedly, passing on reports of a grey continuing existence without prospects."

recording realized in the studio of the Royal Conservatory of The Hague

The date of composition is 1966, but the record's from 1981. Does that mean this was committed to tape in '66 but not pressed on wax until '81? Thoughts and suggestions welcome.

The file is 48 megabytes, btw.


ib said...

Epic, indeed.

Without a trace of irony.

Great piece, admirably abetted by the translation. Most of the time I am envious that you let each post "speak" for itself, largely, but in this instance I for one definitely benefited from the extrapolation.

I would hazard that it was recorded in the late sixties to early seventies, certainly; predating "Metal Machine Music", while packing its own very unique - infinitely more concentrated - visceral punch.

Awesome, Emmett.

Sheridan Dupre said...

This is a great father-son story / piece of music.

Anonymous said...

music - well, better: the structured noise - fits perfectly 2 Goethe's eerie poem, in fact the most terrifying piece of poetry I had to learn by heart way back in school....

ano 2

emmett said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

ib: I actually thought of you before posting this one. Thought you might like it, that it would fit well with your (if you'll forgive the term) pessimystic aesthetic. Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed. The Metal Machine Music comparison is an interesting one... I'm now realizing that I've never actually listend to MMM and should give it a spin. In terms of the recording date, my major question is how could this have been "composed" in 1966 without being recorded in 1966; it would seem that the recording *is* the composition, n'est-ce pas?

Sheridan: Yes, it's right up there with Cats in the Cradle, eh?

Ano: Wow, amazing that you had to memorize that in school. We had Chaucer: "Whan that April" and so forth. Not nearly as spooky. I've been reading up on the folklore behind all this and admit to being a bit confused but will pursue further studies. Thanks again for the comment.