Note: musicians involved in reciting the text.
This is a programme note for people who enjoy reading such things (I do not)! For people like me, read only the first two sentences and the last two.
Anna represents a series of thoughts, emotional responses and an equivalent musical argument.
The original sketches and note for the work were lost just prior to the writing. During a bid to gather together these ideas I cam across, during some reading, a poem; Anna Blume by Kurt Schwitters. From this a new concept evolved, something born out of Dada, theatre, people, happiness, women and reflections of past visits to Germany.
Interested parties read on.
For many years I have been a keen student of the Dada movement and the subsequent school of surrealism. I have also been interested in the social, psychological and political sides of music making, particularly in respect of attitudes and responses by players and listeners alike. Starting off playing jazz music and moving to free improvisation I entered the 'straight music' profession coming across many aspects within the two that have demanded some rationalisation to ascertain the fundamentals that the two exist by. Jazz improvisation has progressed within its short lifetime (something like 70 years) a monumental step, with the newest school involving itself in sound areas that many of today's composers would find commensurate with their own searchings. From these two sides I have had musical experiences that have equalled each other in invention, excitement and emotional content. My composing has been similarly influenced by these experiences.
I have noted from my colleagues involved in improvisation, a less formal approach to their art, one that is without ceremony but is nevertheless dedicated and natural with an iron-willed discipline. This situation I respond to naturally, but my almost schizophrenic self can also operate within the more ritualistic and formal framework of 'straight music'.
In Anna I have tried to bring the two together - not jazz and 'straight' music, but the formal and informal aspects of the opposing cultures with the disciplines behind each.
Here Dada steps in, for to quote: "Dadaism is a stratagem by which the artist can impart to the citizen something of the inner unrest which prevents the artist himself from being lulled to sleep by custom and routine. By means of external stimuli, he can compensate for the citizen's lack of inner urgency and vitality, and shake him into new life" (Udo Ruckser - Dada Almanac, 1920).
Although rather presumptuous, the first part of this manifesto is important to me since it expresses something of my own feelings in music and to art generally. We must remember of course that Dada was born out of a particular social climate and its methods to implement a change were drastic for the time, whilst today they would hardly raise an eyebrow. Their tactics were designed to shock, or at least to make a self-satisfied, resistant to change society take notice. I see immense theatrical qualities in this, and it is this aspect I use in Anna. I mentioned the presumptuousness of the manifesto, since it implies that the artist is superior to the citizen. The artist as God is false - an artist is a fortunate individual, for he has been endowed with a beautiful gift and means of expression which he must use in a universal way.
Potentially a double bass concerto to the average listener signifies the moment for wry smiles and various mutterings and groans. Many would say that the instrument is not capable of solo playing, but investigations over the last few years have expanded its repertory beyond what could have been deemed possible, and with the subsequent addition of amplification and electronic modulation, new worlds have been discovered. The instrument has been likened to a woman of over generous proportions and I have often been asked if I feel amorous towards her, to which I must confess a closeness between us, and since both of us are needed to make music I see it as an equal partnership. In Anna this aspect is exploited, for instance in the initial discovery, where the player reveals slowly her voice, her personality, gradually making a partnership of invincible strength.
Although Anna was a response to the poem, it became increasingly important to include it within the work. As a catalyst to creative work, it also became structural, since many of the musical events are activated by parts of the poem. The various colours mentioned provided another side to the drama that was integral to the whole work.
With the theatre now complete what of the other aspects - people, happiness and Germany? Perhaps it would be simpler to take all three together, for my past visits to the country have always been memorable, with good times, and marvellous people. In Anna I have endeavoured to return this spirit, but there are other elements that I became aware of.
The amplified string section I saw as an outerworld, the subconscious state, another being. The acoustic orchestra I saw as the reality of that world, the conscious state, and the flesh. The bass is the mediator. I saw also the amplified strings as a unified society, always working together and as a commentator on the world below, while the acoustic orchestra as a society in eternal conflict, with the inevitable decline into chaos.
To collect the foregoing together we can see a dual concept. One that can be taken back to the notes on the 'straight' music - jazz cultures that I mentioned earlier - the good-evil syndrome as well.
I have included in this work a tune (stated at the beginning) which I hope the audience will hum or sing. This is important for me since it represents an aspect of help and love for people. With the orchestra in total confusion Anna turns for help to the audience, and although that help is momentarily dislocated the required strength has been given to win the battle.
Anna may be seen as a strip cartoon, a fairy tale which exists on many levels - serious, thoughtful, joyful, sad, strength and weakness. It represents good and evil, love and hate, but above all it is music that I hope will be enjoyed.
© Barry Guy