Große Huldigung an das technische Zeitalter

for ensemble

16:30 Min.

UA : 10.01.2017 Kölner Philharmonie, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Dir: Gregor A. Mayrhofer

Fl, Ob, Cl, Fg, Tp, Hn, Pos,
Kl, Hrf,
2Vl, Vla, Vcl, KB
2 Perc.

Further Performances:
French Premiere: 24.02.2017 – Philharmonie de Paris, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Dir: Gregor A. Mayrhofer

When I saw Arnaldo Pomodoro’s relief „Große Huldigung an das technische Zeitalter“ (“Great homage to the technical age”), two associations instantly came to mind: I thought of satellite pictures on the one hand and computer chips on the other. Interestingly one and the same artwork created in my head two different views – to differing degrees – of what we humans do: a macro view of how we live and how we influence nature and its landscape, and a micro view showing the technical tools (chips, transistors) without which the macro view of ourselves would not be possible.
Thinking more and more about these two aspects of technological progress and its impact on our life and planet, I became aware of an interesting crossfade which is happening right now. On the one hand, the development of computers, robots and especially artificial intelligence is progressing so quickly that I think that, at the end of our lives (or at least the lives of our children), we will reach a point where it will be hard to distinguish between a human and a “humanized” machine. On the other hand, as we learn more about our psychology and bodies, we realize that the human spirit is maybe not as unique and inexplicable as we have very often thought. The more we examine the biochemical processes of our bodies and analyze the psychological patterns of our brains, the more we see that many of our actions are more or less predictable REactions. This is especially apparent when looking at our busy, over-economized world where technology becomes increasingly more human and ironically humans become more and more “technical” or machine like, just following what their phone or the modern media tells them to do.
I thus had the idea of searching for music which starts with “dead” machine-like sounds and then becomes progressively more expressive to the point where it becomes an unstoppable self- multiplying process. In the same time the “human instrument” – the ensemble and the conductor – gradually lose control of that process and in the end become more like robots which just blindly repeat their motives.
I was highly fascinated not only by Pomodoro’s relief, but by many of his other works (especially his metal spheres), where one finds a “perfectly polished reflecting surface” which hides the technical and mechanical processes underneath the surface. Thus, my piece often shifts in between this “surface level” with smooth, spectral sounds and the “inside level” with its mechanical sounds. This reflects the appearance of the technology in our everyday life: it looks clean and sometimes almost expressive and artistic on the surface, but inside it is still a machine, even when the mechanical processes are microscopic and imperceptible to the ear or eye.
Interestingly, in German the word “Huldigung” (“Homage”) has a religious connotation of praising something, which reveals another almost ironic dimension of this subject: do we today follow or perhaps even worship the kind of “new religion of technological achievements”, replacing the old forms of practicing religion?
Thus, the common form of a concert loses its normally expected frame and becomes an almost ritualistic acoustic picture in the end, where the conventional settings of a conductor who leads an ensemble and the ensemble who follows him/her dissolve more and more.
Gregor A. Mayrhofer New York, December 2016