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  • Der Schall: Mauricio Kagels Instrumentarium
  • Björn Heile
Der Schall: Mauricio Kagels Instrumentarium. Edited by Michael Kunkel and Martina Papiro. Saarbrücken: Pfau, 2009. [229 p. ISBN 9783897274099. €30.] Music examples, illustrations, compact disc.

This book is both a volume of scholarly articles on what is described as a key work not only in Mauricio Kagel's œuvre but in twentieth-century music in general, and a documentation of an exemplary project, organized jointly by the Hochschule für Musik, Basel, that city's Historisches Museum, and the Paul Sacher Stiftung. According to a very useful classification provided by Martina Papiro (pp. 63–88), Der Schall (1968) was composed for some forty-four different "sound producers" (the exact number is subject to debate and varies according to definition), including "conventional" instruments (such as trumpet and trombone); historical instruments (such as cornett or clarino); non-Western instruments (such as taishokoto or tumbî); Sonder instrumente, that is, unusual instruments including toy instruments (such as plastic pan flutes and ocarinas); self-built instruments (such as "hose trumpet" and "rubberphone"); and signaling instruments (such as fog horn or antelope horn). Most of these instruments originally came from the composer's own extensive collection as well as those of his collaborators during the premiere of the piece, who were all members of Kagel's Kölner Ensemble für Neue Musik.

For obvious reasons, performances of the work are difficult to arrange and require extraordinary amounts of preparation. The instruments have to be organized (and in many cases built), the performers have to learn to play them to a reasonable standard, and so forth, before the normal rehearsal process can even begin. At the center of the project lay therefore a public performance and a new compact disc recording of the work; this was complemented with an academic conference on the work, a pedagogic project involving local children, and performances of some of Kagel's other seminal compositions from the time as well as new compositions for (predominantly) similarly experimental means. It is this undertaking which could only be made possible through the collaboration of the aforementioned institutions. Kagel's own instrument collection is owned by the Paul Sacher Stiftung, but it is deposited in the Historisches Museum, as part of its collection of musical instruments. Thus, for the new performance the musicians were able to make use of replicas of the original instruments (the originals now being literally museum pieces). Presumably in order to contribute to the development of a continuous performance tradition, two of the "original" musicians from the composition's premiere (and first record production) contributed to the performance, Edward Tarr and Wilhelm Bruck, but they were joined by a number of younger colleagues: Michael Büttler, Markus Hochuli, and Matthias Würsch. Kagel himself was present at the event, although it is unclear to what extent he was involved himself.

The part of the book devoted to the documentation of the project (pp. 211–24) contains the program of the event, excellent color photographs of the performances and rehearsals (pp. 101–16), and further explanations of the recordings presented on the enclosed compact disc. This compact disc obviously contains the new production of the work, and it provides unequivocal testimony that the efforts were not in vain: this is an excellent performance that more than rivals the original recording (a direct comparison would be interesting but lies beyond the scope of this review). In addition, the compact disc features some of the other compositions presented during the event.

The documentation part of the book is completed and complemented by interviews and discussions with Kagel (conducted by Matthias Kassel, pp. 177–86)—one of the most interesting and conclusive interviews he has given—as well as with Wilhelm Bruck and Edward Tarr (conducted by Martina Papiro, pp. 187–200)—likewise unfailingly illuminating and lively—and finally by a roundtable with the composers and sound artists Gerald Bennett, Erik Oña, Manos Tsangaris, and Hans Wüthrich (chaired by Stefan Fricke, [End Page 131] pp. 201–10), who debate the importance of Kagel's innovations for the present and indeed the future. Another section (pp. 143–74) is given over to...


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