Friedrich Cerha

Nacht

Title
Nacht
Subtitle
for orchestra
Duration
20:00
Number of performers
68
Instrumentation
3(all also pic,3. also altofl.),0,3,2bcl,2,1 - 6,3,5,0 - perc(6),2 Hp, pno - 16 vl, 6 vla, 6 vc, 6 db
Composition year(s)
2011
World premiere
2014-10-17
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden Freiburg, Emilio Pomàrico
Commissioner
SWR
Comment of the composer on the work

Language is a medium which, for some time now, is being used more than all other idioms of every art genre to communicate, handled as if they were transposable as desired, as if any such attempts at translation at all were a legitimate, acceptable undertaking. Thus music, via literature, became an autonomous area of the art scene, with its own criteria, experts, fashions and opinion-makers. What is spoken or written is often trusted much more than one’s own experience. This is not restricted to music; despite substantial societal changes, “lecture on heaven” is still being given precedence over Heaven astonishingly often since 1968 with regard to new music.

Composers are expected to operate as men of literature. They are supposed to write introductions to their works, author essays, give lectures. That means there are then musical elements in the foreground which are well presentable using linguistic means, or else – which is more often the case – ideologically and fashionably coloured aspects which are not necessarily crucially germane to the work concerned. Therefore scepticism could indeed be appropriate when considering what composers write; in reality, they are considered an authority in an area in which they are in fact dilettantes.

I do not like it when people attempt to mystify art, when the ideological programmatic goal, the material and the technique of working it become more important than the work’s living organism. Every self-absorbed contemplation of one’s navel contains distorted perspectives, every self-interpretation, self-categorisation or self-assessment is, one way or another, wrong. I am someone who writes music, paints pictures and sculpts in stone. That does not mean that my critical consciousness has been lost, and it does not signify that there is no personal expressive desire, no strong need to express myself behind my work; those who know my work are aware of that. Self-analysis is beneficial, but interpretative attempts are better left to the recipients – and the commentators are liable for their own judgements.

When I write about my work, it is rather to characterise a piece for listeners in a cautious way. About this work in particular: I like to work at night, sometimes until daybreak. During the night, I imagine that time belongs to me; during the day, I belong to time. Now and again time passes slower at night – sometimes I can even make it stand still. And while the sounds of the world often pass by unnoticed during the day, in the quiet of the night attention is sharpened to the slightest sounds, sometimes far apart, and we await the next one with keen ears – the wind in the trees, the rustling of leaves, a branch cracking, a bird’s tired call or a faraway automobile.

And so voilà the grandness of the night sky: I love to observe the shooting stars in August: short pinpoints of light moving incredibly quickly through the dark immobility. My imagination raises such events to a higher power: myriad shooting stars falling in dense pathways from the skies, forming rapidly moving curtains. And these “curtains” articulate my piece; they appear again and again, they become ever slower, weightier, coming less from “above” with less and less luminosity – and in between is what has become sound for me in those nocturnal hours.

Friedrich Cerha

Publisher