Following on from a legendary appearance at hcmf// 2018, where they confounded audiences with two concerts of new work from Rebecca Saunders, Cologne’s Ensemble Musikfabrik return to the festival with new roles to play. With their penchant for interpreting conceptual work and committing to the doubled-down demands of composers, they take on The Fabrication of Light, a feat of musical mechanics by Composer in Residence Chaya Czernowin, as well as Prozession, a knotty new piece by Enno Poppe.
With The Fabrication of Light, it’s the process, rather than final form, that Chaya Czernowin is after. Described by the composer as a ‘ceremony of building’, the piece’s spiraling sound structure suggests its own construction. Still a work in progress, it’s in a perpetual state of being created; Ensemble Musikfabrik take it around in cycles, embracing trial and error as they put it together. The Fabrication of Light is a testament to how Czernowin imagines music as something with connected architecture: it can be assembled, and we can go inside of it. She points to the interior life of sound, the tunnels and corridors within.
Guarded as he is with the alchemy behind his music, you won’t glean much from the title of an Enno Poppe piece. The conductor and composer has visited hcmf// with an array of pieces in recent years, all of them distinct, speculative experiments. He performed as part of ensemble mosaik’s frenetic synth orchestra for his radiophonic homage Rundfunk in 2018, and had the gradual, octave-climbing Schweiss performed by Norbotten NEO in 2019. His new piece, Prozession, was written over the pandemic, germinating rapidly over a series of writing sessions. It’s grown from nine distinct sections to a grand total of 81. Interweaving a series of developing melodic duets and solo lines, the piece is an exercise in flow, eventually finding its own current and sweeping all of Poppe’s material up with it.