• Carola Bauckholt
  • Schlammflocke II (2012)
    (for ensemble)

  • Henry Litolff’s Verlag GmbH & Co. KG (World)
  • 11 min

Programme Note

The sludge floc is, so to speak, the heart of the biological purification of a wastewater treatment plant. A sludge floc consists of living and dead organisms. 

This piece is about the purification of our perception. The musical material is based on concrete sounds such as the songs of gibbons, frogs, seagulls, etc. Together with the individual musicians, I have developed instrumental techniques to get as close as possible to these sounds. The musical substance of the animal sounds is perceived differently when transferred to ordinary instruments. My task in the composition was to derive a musical context from the unfamiliar sounds. (...) Bauckholt's central idea is to musically appropriate the everyday acoustic environment, to use sound phenomena and everyday noises as a source of inspiration. In many of her works, whose titles usually describe a specific object or situation dealt with in the piece, the compositional process takes its starting point in such noisy events and sound phenomena of everyday life or from nature. Certain sounds "just speak to her", as she says, and impose themselves on her as a source of new, unused musical material, which not only sets itself apart from the traditional musical language, but also from the at least partially dusty sound repertoire of New Music. This skepticism towards the traditional initially led her to use exotic instruments until around the beginning of the 1980s. However, Bauckholt soon came to the realization that her ideas could also be realized with extended, alternative playing techniques of the conventional instruments. 

She "recreates" sounds with instrumental means, imitating and transforming them in order to place them in a musical context. Bauckholt says that her music therefore has a "translational character". In this respect, her approach differs from musique concrète and its electronic recordings of concrete sounds, even if noises and sounds in Bauckholt's works often enough retain their symbolic character - in the sense of a musique concrète. 

The ensemble composition Schlammflocke revolves around noises and sounds. A sludge flake, consisting of living and dead microorganisms as well as some inorganic components, is to a certain extent the "heart" of the process of biological purification in a sewage treatment plant. But the title is misleading if one tries to draw too concrete conclusions about the music itself. It refers less to something inherent in the music than to a fundamental objective of Bauckholt's composing: the "purification of our perception", as Bauckholt says. Nevertheless, this title establishes a reference to living organisms, to living beings, which is important to Bauckholt for the new ensemble work Schlammflocke.

As in the vocal sextet Instinkt (2008), in which she "imitated" the sounds of dogs, whales and birds, the majority of the musical structures in Schlammflocke are also derived from animal sounds.

Fascinated, for example, by the songs of gibbons, various bird calls and the sounds of laughing gulls, Bauckholt found a whole compendium of such animal sounds on CDs, which she systematically transcribed into a musical notation in a first step of the composition in order to gain material for a larger musical context. (...)

In all of this, Bauckholt is not primarily concerned with a documentary-accurate, realistic "depiction" of the animal sounds. What is decisive for her are their musical qualities and their potential to open up wide associative spaces for the listener. The work can thus be understood as a large landscape, indeed as an inner, deeply layered landscape through which the listener moves, traversing various acoustic situations and imaginary places. At times, these places even seem to become geographically concrete, when the music almost sound-painterly hints at the clinking cold and rigidity of the ice of the polar regions.

Andreas Günther



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