Music Musicology Poetry Gallery

Nachtst ë cke
for 12 Voices a cappella
1981, 17:30

Nachtst¨cke is a Requiem for my father, Willy P. Laske (1903-1981), whose supportive influence I have felt throughout life. The piece is structured in six movements, corresponding to six poems from the composer's German poetry collection Tönungen (1956-1968).

The work's central topic is the occurrence of Night, addressed both as a real event and metaphorically. The sequence of poems chosen captures a spiritual journey.

In the first poem [Versprechen], Night is addressed by the subjective I as a medium through which to confirm its otherworldliness, and to seal this confirmation with a promise [viz., to address the shimmering face of dreams]. In Geist, Night is the metaphorical landscape in which the Thou is perceived. Here, the other person is a glow of fire in that night. In Gebet, Night is a shelter for lovers who receive its blessings as a reward for giving themselves up to each other. In Verrinnen, Night stands for Death, thus acquiring a social dimension, shared by all humans. It is perceived as a place where loneliness continues unabated. In Reflexion, we return to the poetic I, but its scope has been broadened to encompass all of mankind. Now it is a particular part of night, viz., midnight, which is contemplated. Night is seen as a secret that playfully mirrors the universe. In the last poem, Bitte, Night again relates to the Thou; its slow arrival as a real event becomes a metaphor for how to meet the Thou in absolute stillness.

The work is based on an interpretation of score materials generated by Koenig's Project One program. The program defines an environment in which the composer first defines the basic musical material to be utilized. After analyzing the output, the composer defines a set of interpretation rules for making musical sense of the generated materials. In Nachtstücke, musical ideas were encoded into the following structure formula (serving as input to the program):

In this table, 7 indicates the highest degree of constancy, while 1 indicates constant parametrical change. Thus, metric flow has a tendency to become more noticeable toward the end of the composition, supported by strong dynamic grouping. Harmony shows no particular tendency, but Register indicates progressive voice mixture until movement IV, then a reversal toward individual melodic lines manifesting as contrapuntal texture. In the interpretation of the material from Project One, the poetic texts had a major influence both locally and on the elaboration of the overall form.