You are on page 1of 22

This article was downloaded by: [Boston University]

On: 04 September 2015, At: 23:46

Publisher: Routledge
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered
office: 5 Howick Place, London, SW1P 1WG

Contemporary Music Review

Publication details, including instructions for authors and
subscription information:

On My Second String Quartet ('Reigen


seliger Geister')

Helmut Lachenmann
Published online: 15 Sep 2010.

To cite this article: Helmut Lachenmann (2004) On My Second String Quartet ('Reigen seliger

Geister') , Contemporary Music Review, 23:3-4, 59-79, DOI: 10.1080/0749445042000285681

To link to this article:


Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the
Content) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,
our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to
the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions
and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,
and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content
should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources
of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,
proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever
or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or
arising out of the use of the Content.
This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any
substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,
systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &
Conditions of access and use can be found at

Contemporary Music Review

Vol. 23, No. 3/4, September/December 2004, pp. 59 79

On My Second String Quartet

(Reigen seliger Geister)1

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Helmut Lachenmann (translated by Evan Johnson)2

This is a translation of Helmut Lachenmanns analysis of his second string quartet,

Reigen seliger Geister. He describes the background of the piece, discusses some of the
effects used in the score and shows how it connects to other works in his oeuvre. Although
intentionally vague at times, it is nonetheless highly insightful. This article, written in
1994 1995, appears in German in MaeE.
Keywords: Analysis; Extended Techniques; Listening; String Quartet

To speak about a piece, for me, means to describe the concept of material evidenced
therein and to explicate the relationships in which it stands and by which it denes
itself. The transcendental aspect of the piecethat is, its aesthetic and poetic force
(Stringenz)is not forgotten; its signicance comes through in all of these
observations. With all of the bias, incompletionthat is, imperfectionto approach
it differently is to lose oneself in words.
My rst string quartet, Gran Torso, was written 19 years before Reigen.3 My
conception of a musique concre`te instrumentalein which categories are primarily
delineated not by the usual parameters, but rather through the (always differently
deployed) bodily energetic (korperlich-energetischen) aspects of their foregrounding
of sound or of noise (Gerausch)had in Gran Torso to confront for the rst time
such a traditionally comprised sound apparatus (Klangapparat) as the string
quartet, which has become almost forbidden by its very familiarity. In the earlier
orchestral works Air and Kontrakadenz,4 the standard instrumental paradigm was
distorted in terms of sonic realism through the backdoor of expanded percussion
and additional ad hoc instruments: switches whipped through the air, snapped
branches, rattling electronic alarm bells in Airradio broadcasts, water sloshing in
resonant basins, noisily rubbed polystyrene in Kontrakadenz ultimately simplied
the necessary examination of hearing itself; they did not reach the summit,
admittedly, but they showed the way, they helped aim the antennae and made a
number of things more plausible.
ISSN 0749-4467 (print)/ISSN 1477-2256 (online) 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/0749445042000285681

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

In Gran Torso, there were no such backdoors. The received playing style itself
had to be expanded, rendered alien. The habits of hearing and performance implied
by my chosen ensemble (Instrumentarium) created a resistancetheir resistance
to my initial ideas about poetics and sound syntax. But this was fruitful and my
visions became keener, more precise and more varied, as did my compositional
means. Tone and noise were not opposites, but rather served as variants of broader
sound categories brought to the fore in ever-varying ways. (Witness, for example,
toneless string noise as the clear product of tremolo bowing, transformed by
extreme slowness, that shifts over the strings all the way onto the bridge; or the
legno battuto on stopped strings: here as a means of the pianississimo articulation of
silence, there as an impulse-variant of pizzicato and other short attacks, as the
product of vertical strikes of the bow against the string, mediated with other,
springing, thrown, wiping, stroking forms of bow movement, denable as
characteristic noises, but also as precise pitches in an appropriately different
context.) And as in the previously written cello study Pression,5 the polyvalently
expressed energetic aspect ultimately thematized itself. Everything was sparked by
its development (Durchfuhrung).
When I conceived Reigen in 1988/1989, it was clear to me that every innovative
push that Gran Torso represented (at least for me) had set a standard against which
the new engagement with this ensemble (Besetzung) must measure itself. I could, in
composing, neither simply make use of the earlier, already-developed means, nor
could I abandon the terrain that I had conquered. It came down to how to proceed
from there and this meant: to go deeper andwith an outlook, as always, changed
in the meantimeto see into the already-developed landscape more keenly. (This
also entailednot only in Reigenthe recollection of things previously excluded, the
reconciliation with the temporarily obsolete: with melodically, rhythmically and
harmonically dened, even consonant elementsa reconciliation that could not be
called a retreat into a pre-critical (vorkritischen) state, but had rather to signify
forward-looking integration on a somehow resulting path.)
In fact, the sonic landscapes developed in Gran Torso opened themselves even
wider in Reigen, both inward and outward.
In terms of sound technique, the workas a eld of categories completing and at
the same time transforming itself poco a pocoemerges rst through autato
gestures, while the mapped-out sound world gradually transforms itself into a
diametrically opposed landscape of quite differently structured pizzicato elds. (I
borrow the indication autato from Luigi Nonos Varianti, although its meaning and
performance in his and my case do not overlap 100 per cent.)
The autato technique itself, in its absolutely basic form, is not only dened here
through the relatively quick, light breathing bowstroke on a string loosely held in a
muting grip (Dampfgriff): there is also the simultaneous movement of the drawn
bow between the bridge (at the frog of the bow) and the damping nger (at the tip).
On the cello it is naturally reversed: movement between the bridge with the tip and
the ngerboard (specically, the damping nger) with the frog. (The sound of

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 61

harmonics must be mufed when using this technique. They represent a different
part of the hierarchy of categories [Kategorien-Hierarchie].)
A dull darkening of tone of more peripheral signicance in other pieces, the
autato technique trades that in here for what I called air seized from tone (Luft aus
den Tonen gegriffen) in my rst introduction to this work (Lachenmann, 1996, p.
399). It is, at rst, a sonic centerin other words, a central depot and hub for a
characteristic wealth of variations of noise and sound. It mediates between absolute
tonelessness on the one hand and full C-at major consonance on the other.
Through the movement of the bow from bridge to the damping nger (but also
through the occasional ethereal glissando (Spharische Glissando) performed with the
left hand, beginning or ending extremely high toward the bridgein the snow, the
musicians say) the rustling opens up seamlessly into the pitch-oriented area
(tonhohen-orientierten Bereich).
According to the narrowing or widening distance between the bridge and the
bowing location on the string, the autato bow movement itself results in a
brightness-glissando in the rustling component (Rausch-Anteil). It is accompanied by
a crescendo of ngered pitches shining through when the bow moves over the center
of the string. At the end of the string, by contrast, the rustling predominates. When
the bow moves completely onto the bridge, the ngered pitches change completely
into string noise (see Figure 1).
The toneless string noisealmost a peripheral instantiation (Randerscheinung) of
autato playingforms, along with analogous playing techniques on the scroll, the
tuning peg, the rib, the tailpiece, or even in a very highalmost arcticposition,
andat the end of the pieceon the wooden mute, a more or less unique,
characteristic repertoire of usable rustle variations (Rauschvarianten).

Figure 1 # 1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

The temporary drowning of pitch in toneless string noise on the bridge allows a
hidden variation of the ngering so that, when the bow returns to the strings, the
autato sound resumes with pitches different from the ones it had when it was
Such disappearances and modied returns are achieved in Reigen through gures
that can somewhat recklessly be called trill variants.
These are exercised and exorcised through a wide variety of distortions: one
could say that they propel the piece onward from the opening. Their most lavish
variants appear as fast gures in an ordinario-bowed tutti texture that draws (real and
imitated) overtone-glissando gures out of a polytonal eld, and from there into
tonelessness (see the score, mm. 85 112).
That tutti texture can be brought, through synchronized dynamics and shared bow
movements, onto the bridge and back onto the strings, from disappearance into
tonelessness back into re-emergence in the same way as the simple autato sound:
what takes place in a single instrumental voice can be transferred to the whole
instrumental apparatus (see Figure 3).
Again and again in the course of the overall processes of the piece, we nd
ourselves involved with a single, almost homophonically treated 16-stringed sonic
mechanism (Klang-Gerat).
Its further instantiations:

Unison sound and unison rustling, i.e. the synchronous multiplication or

amplication of sound or noise (which by successive switchings off of single
instruments shift the resulting sound or noise into a different light, as the result
of a subtraction process) (Figure 4).

Figure 2 Cello part, II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 6, mm. 26 28. # 1989,
Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 63

Figure 3 II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 18, mm. 99 102. # 1989, Breitkopf
& Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Figure 4 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 6, m. 27. # 1989,

Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

The cooperative paraphrasing of simple modes of playing: for example, a sort

of composed autato through the synchronization of grit-free harmonics, made


Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

brilliant through a unison in half of the quartet, with absolutely toneless string
noise intensied through doubling in the other players (Figure 5).
And, as a further variation of such autato nuances, the parallel deployment of
tones greatly separated in sonic space (Figure 6).

Not least, the formation of such an imaginary super-instrument (SuperInstrument) from its component simple sound forms and playing techniques
helped the compositional process to the diversication and dialectical redenition
of what appears at rst to be a purely physically oriented sonic correspondence
(physikalisch orientierten Klangzusammenhang), of which a speculative idea of
abstract or concrete formhowever cleverwould not itself be capable, and
without which the orientation of concrete sounds into a botanized presentation
would be ruined.
Also among the functions of the super-instrument is the hocket-like formation
of sequences out of mutually cooperative single entries of a few or all of the

Figure 5 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 30, m. 169. # 1989,
Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Figure 6 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 32, mm. 177 180. #
1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 65

instruments. The quasi-motivic gesture that is hinted at at the beginning, along
with the trill variants, and then eliminated, works along these linesas if
The idea of the super-sequence (Super-Sequenz) is the basic vehicle for the
characteristic transformational process of this piece. It works as a bridge between the
autato structures of the opening and the pizzicato elds that drive everything else
out at the end. From the viewpoint of the resulting super-instrument, one could also
conceive of a super-sequence as a wider or narrower arpeggio, in which successive
entries came together as homogeneous sound sources in a total spectrum
(Gesamtfeld) in such a way thatwith large and irregular distances between entries
and without pedalthey appear as a virtual sonic unity on the inner screen, that is,
in the memory of the listener (see Figures 10, 11, 14, 17).
The muting grip has yet to be discussed: in principle it blocks all of the
strings through a loose laying of the left hand on their actual vibrations, thus
intensifying the perception of the subsidiary noises (Nebengerausche). Lifting it,
on the other hand, leaves the open strings free. Where this muting grip is applied
so that it suddenly closes the mouth, so to speak, through an unexpected
blocking of an unstoppably eruptive up-bow gesture, a panting sound effect
results; its implosive ascending and sharply cut-off dynamic curve is the reversal
of an explosive decaying impulse. It proves to be a reversed pizzicato, as it were
(Figures 7 and 8).
(In 1958, when listening to my teacher Luigi Nonos tapes in his house, I found
myself with a recording of Arnold Schoenbergs voice in my hands. Assuming that it
was a two-sided tape, I copied both the front and back sides. I found myself listening,
unsuspectingly and full of reverence, to the backward-speaking voice of a hoarse/
happy6 Schoenberg telling stories in what sounded to me like a foreign tongue, full
of fantastic excitement thanks to the tearing-off effect of the reversal of the original
plosives. . .)
The singular key moment, where the mutually contrasted playing techniques meet
each other, takes place in mm. 183 184. Here the crescendoing up-bow is unmuted:
it has been freed through a lasciar vibrare indication and creates a minor second with
the pizzicato of the violins open string (Figure 9).
This moment could be the musical core, so to speak, the magnetic North Pole for
the movement from the autato to the pizzicato located antipodally on this soundglobe (Klang-Globus). The true formal corethe geographical poleis, by
contrast, where in the course of the aforementioned sequence-projections the single
tones of a G major sixth chord, widely spaced in an outstretched arpeggio, are
apotheosized and become de-tonalized through extreme spatial and temporal
expanses: sequence, arpeggio and a physically articulated structure in one (Figure
The pizzicato landscape that opens up at the same time consists of a wide spectrum
of variants. (These events are foreshadowed from the rst bar forward, in the form of
a autato eld constantly counterpointed with or interpenetrated by single impulses


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Figure 7 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 23, m. 124. # 1989,
Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Figure 8 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 26, mm. 143 144. #
1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Figure 9 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, pp. 32 33, mm. 183
184. # 1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Figure 10 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, pp. 38 39, mm. 221
224. # 1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 67

like legno battuto dots, extremely short bowings, attacks with a struck or briey
pressed bow, partially crystallized in square, often dotted rhythms. At the same time,
these are reconciled with the autando gesture and the hierarchy oriented around it
through an increasing saltando presence and the related short hints of tremolo.
Nevertheless they also already hint at the pizzicato gesture that will later take the
upper hand.)
The pizzicato variants themselves: their diversity and the forms of their
conjunction make them virtually impossible to illustrate adequately, except through
the score itself. As undamped octave and twelfth harmonics (Figure 11a), they are
closely related to the equally reverberant bowed harmonics. Legno battuto (Figure
11b) and pressed (Figure 11c) accents function as boundary forms. Double sounds
are formed through the coupling of strings in front of and behind the bridge
(Figure 11d), simultaneities on the rst and fourth strings at the interval of the
double octave (Figure 11e), and even the pianississimo placement of the screw of
the bow onto open stringsso that both halves of the string sound equally (Figure
11f)or simply as double-stopped minor seconds (Figure 11g). Arco actions act
here more and more as foreign bodies (Fremdkorper) or, at most, serve to prolong
resonance articially.
After measure 280 the bows are set aside. The string quartet has become an
imaginary guitar with varying planes of strings: Salut fur Caudwell7 sends its regards.
Simultaneities strummed with plectrums create, hocket-style, a composite gesture.
Eight styles of left-hand grip are rhythmically dovetailed with each other, giving the
thus-created super-sequence a structural prole (Figure 12).
Finally, with the arrival of the sound of four open strings, and fully with the
doubling and quadrupling thereof, one encounters subtraction sounds (Subtraktionsklangen), which remain from the heretofore six-voice texture through a partial
damping of the strings, as if they had been ltered (Figure 13).
At the end, the tutti open-string sound, distorted in the meantime through the
extreme scordaturabefore its broadly rhythmicized repetition gets stuck to the
point of unrecognizabilityissues from itself an expansive six-note song (Gesang),
in that after each ripping attack a different string is allowed to resonate undamped:
the last form to appear of that meta-melodic category, about which the talk in this
piece was of a sequence built through hocket (hoquetisch gebildeter Sequenz) (Figure
The Battered Time-Net
Structure: polyphony of arrangements (Struktur: Polyphonie von Anordnungen): my
old denitionalways at hand since the typology of sound I established in the 1960s,
in which sound and form, sensory and spiritual experience meet and interpenetrate in
the double concept of sound-structure/structure-sound (Klangstruktur/Strukturklang)can be used seamlessly in a more precise analysis of the beginning of Reigen:
arrangements of autato bowings, impulse families, restless gestures (saltando/

H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015


Figure 11 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, pp. 40 43, 48, mm. (a)
231, (b) 239, (c) 245, (d) 236, (e) 280, (f) 246, (g) 241. # 1989, Breitkopf & Hartel,

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 69

Figure 12 (a) Strings stopped at a distance of a minor sixth, or consonant stops. (b)
Natural-harmonic nger pressure (second and third overtones). (c) Random harmonics,
as resonant as possible, through ad libitum touching (relying on luck) and rhythmicized
release of the strings in the area above the fourth partial. (d) Stopping unidentiable
pitches through tearing right at the bridge. (e) Tight grip, as high as possible. (f) Strings
behind the bridge. (g) Open strings. Note: The dotted brackets around the violin clef refer
to the extreme scordatura, which permits, despite the precise notation of the ngering,
no exact denition of the resulting pitches.


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Figure 13 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 47, m. 274. # 1989,
Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

tremolo), and so on overlay each other and work together. They thus t into the timearticulating (zeitartikulierenden) particulars of a net8 previously generated for the
entire work: a net of extremely aperiodic pulses, traveling alongside as if from
underground, the measurements of the whole pre-compositionally regulated, that in
the score is notated above the instrumental parts as a rhythmic frame. (The pitches
notated there, which owe themselves to easily traced 12-tone permutations, exist
simply for a possible verication of the generating principle. Musically, they play no
The sonic events placed in this net, however, become unwieldy in the course
of the piece. Their internal rhythmic structure rips out their stitches as if from
within. And where that hocket sequence forms, crystallizing entirely into a plastic
rhythm, the net has nally become almost totally nonfunctional; it demarcates only
general temporal areas. For that reason, from measure 280ff. of the score, its
presentation along the upper staff is abandoned. Instead, in that space appears
merely the total rhythm resulting from the complementary cooperation of the
played gestures. They crystallize temporarily into a quasi-Waltz (mm. 240 241).
These rhythmic gestures, further expanded, nally form in the epilogue the latent
temporal skeleton for the end of the piece: the internal rhythm has therefore
become the structural net: regression toward the close, which originates at the
beginning. . . (Figure 15).
Just such a simplication of the structural construction can be discerned as an
(intermediary) product of a perpetual spatial idea of time, in which events occur
successively and are homogeneously constructed to merge melodically and
rhythmically, but nally form not a succession but a mutually completing attraction:
an arpeggio in an imaginary universal sound/space/eld [Gesamt-Klang/GesamtRaum/Gesamt-Feld], branching out on various scales. (In such pieces as Ein
Kinderspiel 9 and Tanzsuite mit Deutschlandlied,10 above all in the Siciliano of the
latter, there exists a relative of this type of structure, reduced in complexity, which
through that reduction has been given room for the aura11 of the soundsthus
bringing more intricate complexitiese.g. quoted materialsinto play.)

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 71

Figure 14 II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, pp. 58 59, mm. 344 351. # 1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 73

Figure 15 II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, pp. 52 53, mm. 303 314. # 1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Harmony/Scordaturaand a Glance at the Epilogue

In principle, harmony reigns where tones form the music. But overall, where pitches
become unit particles in cooperation with other sonic categories, it must be dened
in their context. Even when strongly controlled intervallically, harmony can distort
i.e it can sabotage an expanded musical perception (. . .Which is stronger: C major or
pizzicato?. . .).
The tone rows in Reigen, xed at the beginning from the complete 12 notes of the
scale on the one hand, and from constantly and/or continuously widening or
narrowing interval elds on the other (Figures 16a and b), become more and more
inltrated with sounds along the lines of articial natural noises (kunstlichem
Naturlaut), that is to say of the unique sound of the apparatuses (Gerate): among
these are the sound of the open strings along with their harmonic spectra, the sound
of the strings behind the bridge, but also all the sounds and noises (Klange und
Gerausche) that are suppressed in the extremely cultivated technique of the
performance of pitches and other natural sounds: the toneless string noise, the
complex sonic edices of strings heavily pressed either above or behind the bridge,
the mufed-string sound, the noise of a legno battuto attack distilled through a
damping grip, can all be brought into relation.
The echo of a pizzicato octave harmonic, depending on the particular tuning, thus
belongs with the toneless noise of bowing on the scroll. The harmony that was
previously often incidentally weighed down by such a connection, its tonality,
becomes the unforced natural presence of the sonic body, prescribed by the external
mechanical/physical conditions of the structure of the instrument. In the case of
Reigen, that nature is manipulated beforehand, as if prepared, through the
scordatura given at the beginning and its transformations (Figure 17). On them is
based the unique sound of the 16-string super-instrument.
Such a chromatic setup allows the occasional quid pro quo game between
articial and natural harmony. Most of the sequences, right in the middle of
Reigen, present themselves as artfully organized, but in fact simply collect under a
particular technical sonic aspect the pitch repertoire that has been standing at the
ready (Figure 18).
In the aforementioned large eld of overlaid harmonic glissandi (mm. 96 110),
the articial natural harmonics must help out where the open strings do not include
all chromatic stepslike dummy glissandi played over ctional open strings by the
hand; gures that, for their part, t in not merely in imitation, but rather break
formation and bring into play their own interval constellations, differing from the
nature that is imitated.
In measure 117, the basic sound is manipulated anew: an articial scordatura is
temporarily established: the players hold quadruple stops that complement each
other chromaticallyjust like the open strings themselves. Thus, they form an
articial keyboard for autato actions tied to larger-scale gestures (supersequences. . .) (Figure 19).

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 75

Figure 16a II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 1, mm. 1 5. # 1989, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

Figure 16a II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 1, mm. 1 5. # 1989, Breitkopf &
rtel, 16b
Pitch structure at the opening.

Figure 17 Initial scordatura.

Figure 18 Reduction of II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 37, m. 210. # 1989,
Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

From measure 296, the music, the touched-upon sounds always differently ltered,
bangs its head against the wall of this scordatura.
But by itself, the strike of a st against the keyboard of a well-tempered keyboard
can produce nothing but diatonic or pentatonic clusters. And one can hiss as

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015

Contemporary Music Review 77

Figure 19 Articial scordatura through xed harmonic-pressure left-hand positions.

violently as one likes into a harmonica: nothing will emerge but a pre-programmed C
major triad.
From this point in Reigen, the established pitch frameworks (Tonhohen-Rahmen)
renew themselves through the extreme scordatura set up in the course of
performance. Each player has here a different, freely determined time to detune
the strings of his instrument wildly, i.e. by no particular distance, by which means
each string will be assigned a different interval, so that from here as few fthrelationships as possible lie behind the music.
Then, on this no longer controllable gamut of 16 hopelessly detuned strings
transformed by arco con sordinothe Epilogue takes its course. Of all the
reminiscences that it celebrates under varying conditions (among which the sloweddown tremolo movement sends a greeting in the direction of Gran Torso), the
evocation of the originally so delicately produced autato undergoes the most
conspicuous transformation: since the obligatory bow motion between bridge and
ngerboard described at the beginning is now performed with pressed bow, the noise
components brightness changes, which came through subtly, at most, beforehand,
here come to light as gently rattling pitch glissandi: downwardly or upwardly directed,
based on whether the damping grip stops the deepened and thus drowned-out area of
the strings or not (Figure 20).
Measure 374, which consists of alternating, overlapping downward glissandi in the
two violins, can be repeated ad libitum, theoretically ad innitum. It is the point that
is reached somewhere in almost all of my compositions, sometimes more than once:
where the music pausesin a sounding fermataand an ostinato passage either
loses or nds itself before it continues. It is the moment in mountain climbing
where one takes a deep breath and surveys the horizon: its intensity is unexplainable
without the effort leading up to it. The dynamic time of this traversal (Begehens) is
something different from the static, timeless time of the traversed landscape itself.
These two times interpenetrate: music in search of non-music. But not a magic that

Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015


H. Lachenmann (trans. E. Johnson)

Figure 20 II. Streichquartett, Reigen seliger Geister, p. 62, mm. 366 371. # 1989,
Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden.

seeks to master perception, rather an open space that takes it captive, in order to
show it where it has freed itselfwhere it may free itself.

Round of the Blessed Spirits.

Translators note: I have endeavored wherever possible to retain Lachenmanns often
idiosyncratic punctuation and sentence structure (including several incomplete sentences);
however, commas and dashes have been added and modied where necessary to aid
readability in English. All quotation marks and ellipses, however, are to be found in the
original. I have given the German originals at the rst appearance of words and phrases for
which that information strikes me as useful, either because the word or phrase is integral to
Lachenmanns technical vocabulary and is used systematically (e.g. Gerausch and SuperSequenz), or because their usage in German seems idiosyncratic and singular in a way that is
not easily captured in translation (e.g. the many different words used to describe the string
quartet: ensemble, apparatus, device, etc.). As explained in notes 8 and 11, Lachenmann uses
italics only for work titles and for one occurrence each of the two words net and aura, to
which occurrences those footnotes are attached. I have also set Italian musical terms in italics
that are invariably my own. The article is noteworthy not only for the detailed information it
provides on the formal construction of Lachenmanns second string quartet, but also for
what it does not provide. The near-total lack (other than a few tantalizing titbits) of specics
regarding the pitch and rhythmic organization of the piece, in comparison to the detailed
taxonomies of different sonic vocabularies and playing techniques, is an interesting reection

Contemporary Music Review 79


Downloaded by [Boston University] at 23:47 04 September 2015


not necessarily of Lachenmanns compositional priorities but of his willingness to address

them to a public audienceand thus, perhaps, his own estimation of their originality, or of
the importance of their analysis to the understanding of his work. All footnotes, unless
otherwise marked, are my own.
Editors note: Here Lachenmanns recollection is slightly in error. His rst quartet had been
started 18 years and nished 17 years before Reigen.
Written in 1968/1969 and 1970/1971 respectively.
Written in 1969/1970.
Heiser/heiter, an odd and difcult-to-translate pun.
A work for two guitars (and speaking by both musicians) from 1977.
Italics in the originalone of only two usages of italics used in the original other than work
A set of seven small piano pieces written in 1980.
For amplied string quartet and large orchestra, written in 1979/1980.
The other usage of italics; see note 8.

Lachenmann, H. (1996). Commentary on the Zweites Streichquartett (Reigen seliger Geister)
(1989). In J. Hausler (Ed.), Musik als existentielle Erfahrung. Schriften 1966 1995 (p. 399).
Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Hartel.