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The Death - Soprano (1985)

One of the most strange pieces I ever composed. Not so much because of the pastiche stile in which it was made but rather how it was made. Actually this is a radiophonic piece rather than a mixed music piece. It was commissioned by the Music Drama Group of the Swedish Broadcast Corporation (SR) as a kind of virtual Radio Opera. The lyrics were based on the Swedish writer/poet Erik Bäckmans book ”Communal Poems”. I was working together with another Swedish poet and sound artist Bengt-Emil Jonsson, the soprano Kerstin Ståhl and the musician/producer Göran Rydberg and finally the actor Ernst Günther. In the first part of the story an old man is called upon by Death in the shape of a beautiful soprano. At first he is scared and wont let her in but gradually he is drawn to the love radiating from the Death-Soprano.

As I arrived in the studio Ernst had already recorded the lyrics for the first part of the ”opera” and Kerstin had recorded some semi modernistic vocal phrases. It seemed to me that the lyrics in all it´s surrealistic grandeur and in the overwhelming interpretation by Ernst Günther needed the ”true” sound of a romantic opera rather than some experimental version. I proposed to have a go and compose a full orchestral score for the first part of the piece. As the others left the studio at six that evening I started to work. I noticed that the actor was reading with a very specific rhythmic feeling so I decided to compose the music in accordance with the reading. Then I also had to incorporate the vocal parts that were sung in a totally different tempo. At my disposal I had a sampler that could make one instrumental sound at the time and a 24 track tape recorder. I had to transfer the pre recorded things and then to play along instrument by instrument. I had absolutely no pre conceived idea of how the music should be so it was kind of an operatic  improvisation all the way from start to end. I worked like in a trance all night and when the others arrived at eight in the morning the piece was ready. Until this day I really can´t understand how I managed to do it. I guess I was in a state of bliss.


The lyrics (the beginning...)

Old man: Behold! The Death, Soprano!

But Death-Soprano, excuse my disgusting hand

My ridiculous grabber around the door handle and my soggy pink skin between the fingers

Cultivate the hand, fantasise me...

Death-Soprano: I love you!

Old man: Oooooh no, Death-Soprano, but picture me in some acceptable way. We are after all just achievements of our fantasies... he he he

Achieve me! Outside the spring is walking, muddy and soon green

Death-Soprano: Muddy and soon green...

Old man: Muddy and soon green...

Achieve me strange against the greenery. Don´t look at my ridiculous hand around the door handle.

Death-Soprano: Around the door handle...

Old man: Around the door handle I have only a ridiculous little grey hand, and pay no attention to my soggy pink skin between the fingers..

Death-Soprano: Between the fingers...

Old man: Between the fingers there is only soggy pink skin. Make someone else out of me! Fantasise me!

Death-Soprano: I love you!

Old man: (Giggling and snarling) no, but imagine me some acceptable way. Make me...make me first. Make what you are about to collect.

Death-Soprano: Collect...

Old man: Collect me grand. Outside the spring is walking, muddy and soon green, putting bright teeth in manly mouths and sweet legs on little women.

Death-Soprano: Sweet legs on little women...

Old man: Sweet legs on little women my head´s always been. My brain is very big! A big warm rat, with a huge lukewarm ocean inside. Once, I heard a symphony. Then I recognised my brain. My brain is also like the dick in the army...



Ernst Günther