Four CD boxed set contains the following three recordings:
VOM KLANG DES LEBENS / OF THE SOUND OF LIFE
BUCH DER STERNE / BOOK OF STARS
STUNDENBUCH / BOOK OF HOURS
Long before he discerns the light of the world, still in the womb, nascent man begins to sense the sounds of life. Long before his spirit attempts to differentiate experiences, develop ideas or make his mark on the path of history, he begins to hear the force that creation determined for us.
The French doctor Alfred A. Tomatis was able to demonstrate that the sense of hearing is already fully developed in the fifth month of pregnancy. The sound of his mother's voice, the music that accompanies her and the notes that could harmonize with his own personal sounds, all are experienced by the ear while still bathing in the Amniotic fluid. Passionately devoted to all that sound has ever meant to man, the already multiple father accompanied the latest pregnancy of his wife in the early 90s in more than one sense—Peter Michael Hamel, an excellent improviser and interpreter at the keyboard, played the piano. He had always delighted in creating metrically complex pulsating rhythms, as if this gift were given to him from the start. In this manner he journeyed into his subconscious, demonstrating, to the joy of the mother and the growing empathy of the yet unborn child, the music of our world.
Hamel extemporized and begun to write down short passages: private notes, day by day, month by month new tonal discoveries, revealing the experiences and ambitions of his own life story. Some of these ideas—a melody, a turn of phrase—found themselves represented in several pieces. The final embodiment of the music was to be a group of twelve meaningfully arranged studies for piano. Composed over a period of fourteen years, between 1992 and 2006, the cycle can be understood as an idealized diary, embodying central motifs from Hamel's understanding of himself as a person and an artist.
The order of the pieces and the general structure of the cycle VOM KLANG DES LEBENS / OF THE SOUND OF LIFE were only determined by Hamel quite late. Two almost identical pieces dedicated to John Cage frame the work: Arrival and Departure, between which are works dedicated to Alfred A. Tomatis, Miles Davis, Morton Feldman, Walter Bachauer, Dane Rudhyar, Pandit Patekar, Olivier Messiaen, Giacinto Scelsi, Iannis Xenakis, and his son, Johann David Antonin.
The framework of the whole cycle is a multicultural place of action and of possibilities. Life, and all its sounds are represented symbolically, and new growth can always begin. Maybe that is what Peter Michael Hamel was thinking when he improvised for mother and child: "Primal trust for all."
BUCH DER STERNE / BOOK OF STARS
Wilfried Hiller developed his own personal dialogue with the stars early in his childhood. He knew as a child how his parents had communicated over long distances by gazing at Alkor, the little rider of the second star in the handle of the Big Dipper. As a teenager he was fascinated by the world of Greek mythology, the stories of which are littered in the stars. As an adult he experienced the proximity of the stars from the coast of Turkey, later from his refuge on the Aegean island of Phournoi. Astronomical aspects are present, openly or hidden, in many of his works.
BUCH DER STERNE / BOOK OF STARS is a documentation of his personal study of the constellations and of the efforts of humans of all times and places to make sense of what is written in this vast nocturnal mirror of anthropomorphic dreams. Fantasies become sound and the kaleidoscopic poetry of masked games.
BUCH DER STERNE / BOOK OF STARS is founded on the principles of order and mass, acknowledging the power of numbers. Without sacrificing the individual characters of the sometimes quite stormy pieces, the 72 miniatures are arranged with great care. Each piece is associated with one particular musically gravitational note; fortuitously, Hiller could ascribe one of the 88 keys of the piano to each constellation of the northern and the southern hemisphere. Simultaneously, the traditional emphasis on the constellations of the Zodiac is reflected in an ascending cycle of fifths, beginning on D1.
Wilfried Hiller's own personal impulse glows through everything, whether contemplative or speculative. In many of the pieces, particularly the more formally far reaching constellations, he describes scenes from real life. A wonderful example is the drama of Perseus and Andromeda. Initially, a curtain seems to rise, into which is delicately but threateningly woven the W motif of Cassiopeia. Andromeda must suffer a horrible punishment because of her mother's arrogant speeches. But then Perseus leaps into a fierce battle with the monster Cetus, while her father Cepheus watches silently and passively. Hiller's music is a gripping description of all this, focussing on the battle with Dionysian fervour.
So rich in sonic ideas is BUCH DER STERNE / BOOK OF STARS, and rich in secrets. The latter must never be revealed, and the former cannot adequately be enumerated. It is safe to say, however, that even in the smallest Bagatelle Hiller was entirely concentrated on finding a truthful representation of the spirit of each constellation.
STUNDENBUCH / BOOK OF HOURS
It is fitting that Hans Otte's STUNDENBUCH / BOOK OF HOURS, recorded by pianist Roger Woodward on a Bösendorfer at the Radio Bremen concert hall, is a co-production between Celestial Harmonies and Radio Bremen. The piece was commissioned by Radio Bremen for its Pro Musica nova 1996, the highly regarded biennial festival for contemporary music founded (in 1961) and directed (from 1962) by Hans Otte, during his tenure as Head of Music at Radio Bremen (1959 to 1984). Through this festival, Otte had opened doors to countless composers, had given opportunites to realise ideas and concepts, and had helped composers such as John Cage, David Tudor, La Monte Young, Nam June Paik, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mauricio Kagel, György Ligeti and Dieter Schnebel.
Quoting from Hans Otte's programme notes for the Pro Musica nova 1996, "Since 1991 I have once again been working on a large cycle for piano. There can be no better challenge for any composer than writing for this instrument, which has been so closely involved in developing the new musical languages of this century.
"Music is about listening', as Rauschenberg once said, and it is important for any composer of today to learn from the great artists of the century. As Matisse and Picasso began to eliminate the duality of pictorial space, and Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg continued fifty years later, the change in art toward independent moments of visual perception, where every glance is the present, became clear. And in music it is quite similar, where a non-dualistic experience and conception can offer the listener the freedom of every moment, the liberation from recollection or expectation. In my Stundenbuch I have attempted to follow this path. The whole cycle consists of smaller and larger pieces that follow each other without interuption."
Writes pianist Roger Woodward, "In the closing years of the twentieth century, perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Bremen pianist-composer, Hans Otte, disciple of the visionaries Walter Gieseking and John Cage, emerges as the unsurpassed master of the sublime, lyric poetry with his composition of a true masterpiece in moment form for piano entitled STUNDENBUCH / BOOK OF HOURS.
"In a universe of exalted, fragmented but delicately-balanced sonorities, the audacious design of time-suspended galaxies in Otte's highly-intimate, miniature-art and enigmatic but constant shift of movement and mood, form four books in twelve parts each, to span a golden arc extending from prima and seconda prattica to the sonnets of Shakespeare; divine melodic genius of Mozart; inscrutable logic of late-Beethoven; Elysian fields of Schubertian Ländler and Chopinian cantilena of the Nocturnes, in poetic homage and as an inclusive part of his magnificent North-German inheritance."
The London Guardian described him as a "pianistic genius"; Le Monde de la Musique, Paris, for his Debussy performances, as "magnificent"; and in Edinburgh, he was described as a "musician's musician". The Financial Times, London, called Woodward "one of the most consistently exciting and convincing interpreters of virtuosic avant-garde music."
PETER MICHAEL HAMEL
Silke Avenhaus was born in Karlsruhe, took her first recorder lessons in Vienna at the age of five and attended her first piano lessons at the age of six. Still young she won numerous competition and was awarded a scholarship by the Edwin Fisher Fund.
Her teachers included Anna Stadler, Klaus Schilde and Bianca Bodalia. She also benefitted from studying with György Sebök at Indiana University in Bloomington, USA.