Repertoire by project — TON

15—16.03.08 BERLIN, GERMANY

11:00 (only on 16.03.) and 15:00 St. Elisabeth-Kirche, Kolonnenstrasse 38-39 D-10829

Exhibition open 17.–24.03.08 12:00–18:00

MaerzMusik: TON

Genevieve Lacey | alto and tenor Ganassi recorders • Richard Haynes | clarinet

Tristram Williams | trumpet • Benjamin Marks | trombone

Liza Lim / Volker März / Sabrina Hölzer • TON: Scena for mobiles, audience and musicians (2008)

    [world premiere]

Commissioned by Zeitgenössische Oper Berlin and the ELISION Ensemble.

TON, a joint project by director Sabrina Hölzer, composer Liza Lim and artist Volker März, combines sculptural elements and elements from musical theatre, bringing together the visual and auditory senses in a uniquely confident manner. Space and objects, instrumentalists and audience meet on autonomous and independent ground in an open performance situation. Sounds waft through the room. The draft created by brass instruments is transformed into the movement of mobiles, and the dark notes of the Ganassi recorder seem to play with and pervade the human clay figures that are part of these mobiles. The clay ‘Unos’ by Volker März are literally animated by the musical breath. TON, a scene for mobiles, audience and instrumentalists, is an experiential space that originates in the constant joint search for cultural conditions, individuality and interaction.

Information about the individual solo works that form TON:

These solos are a kind of ‘resetting’ of some fragments from my opera The Navigator. I had spent the entire previous year on a DAAD artist-in-residence in Berlin immersed in the world of the opera and also wrote a number of solo and chamber pieces in order to ‘debrief’ some aspects of that experience.

Weaver of Fictions (2007) for solo alto Ganassi recorder

Dedicated to Genevieve Lacey

There are many names for desire - the ancient Greeks made a divinity of it - Eros - ‘the bittersweet’, ‘wild-winged-one’, ‘loosener-of-limbs’, the ‘weaver-of-fictions’....

This solo is the prelude to The Navigator, a ‘dream opera’ about Eros and Thanatos (Desire and Death). Genevieve Lacey introduced me to the Ganassi recorder earlier this year: an instrument with astonishing expressive and virtuosic capabilities that flourished in 15th century Venice. This is an instrument long associated with lamentation, the erotic, and pastoral and supernatural realms: an irresistible combination for a composer! The school of Ganassi recorder playing went into decline when Baroque recorders took over the musical landscape - the newer instruments were easier to standardise, tune and control. About thirty years ago, the legendary Australian instrument builder, Fred Morgan led a movement to ‘regenerate the Ganassi’, deriving his model from a damaged original held in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Genevieve plays a Fred Morgan alto recorder tuned in G.

Wild Winged-one (2007) for solo trumpet

Wild Winged-one for solo trumpet includes the word ‘inside’ from the opera libretto. In the opera, the trumpet was especially associated with the ‘Angel of History’, a half-human, half-animal-bird figure of prophecy and witness. The solo piece is made of ‘parentheses’ of human-animal breaths, murmurs and radiant vibration in a structure of ‘commentaries inside commentaries’.

Text by Patricia Sykes from Scene 3 of The Navigator libretto

the comet in its coma

sings of the erotic bathings

of a man inside a woman

inside a man who makes love

with water, sings of a woman

inside a man inside a woman

who makes love with a comet

sings of a comet inside a glacier

inside an engine whose twin aortas

deliver blood-rain or tide-blood

sings of a doubt so cold

it breeds ice

Sonorous Body (2008) solo clarinet in B-flat

Written for Richard Haynes

For the clarinet solo, Sonorous Body, the title is taken from lines in Scene 4 of the libretto:

horizon and water

could never be lovers

horizon adores only distance

sonorous water

searching for its sonorous body

Whilst in the opera, these lines were presented in a very intense, declamatory way, here in the clarinet solo they are heard as if from a great distance. The piece begins in an intimate, introspective way with the music made up of very subtle shifts, later unfolding into multiple-voiced trills and roulades of sound that leave a retreating foam of pattering resonances.

From the Director, Sabrina Hölzer:

«Ton» meaning ‘sound’ or ‘clay’ in German

TON, a ‘Scena for mobile, audience and instrumentalists’ was especially conceived by the Berlin-based stage director Sabrina Hölzer for the St. Elisabeth-Kirche in Berlin Mitte. This neo-classical church by Karl Friedrich Schinkel was fire-bombed by Allied forces during World-War II and remained a ruin in East Berlin until 2006.  It has been partially restored with a glass ceiling as a way of reactivating the space as a venue for the arts.

TON, consisting of two ‘chapters’ can be visited in its first part as a performance with four musicians of the Australian ELISION Ensemble and in its second part, as an installation. The main room of the church covered by a ceiling of glass will be hung with diverse large ‘mobiles’ with spans between two to ten metres wide and comprising hovering sculptural figures by the Berlin-based artist Volker März. The figures will float at the audience’s eye-level, freely moving around the room. The musicians are placed in various niches set at different heights around the church as sounding-sculptures that form their own mobile counterpoint communicating with these fragile shapes.

The public, regarded as a constituent of the piece itself, is in this work placed together with the musicians and the floating sculptures to create a concerted ‘scene’. The ‘story’ is created in the imaginations of the public as they watch the circling movements of numerous figures. These ‘personages’ appear to come from different contexts yet establish fleeting connections with each other in a to-and-fro dance in the space. The music is organised as a cyclic form in which sounds approach and recede, gradually revealing complete pieces over time. The music also comes into a dialogue with the mobiles, seemingly giving impulses to their movement and becoming part of the fantasy structure that is constructed by the audience.

The foundation for this work is a number of different solo pieces by the Australian composer Liza Lim. The reference point for the musical structure is a solo work (Weaver of Fictions) played by the alto Ganassi recorder, an instrument which has a very special dreamy, sensuous quality. Against this, other pieces for tenor Ganassi recorder (The Long Forgetting), trumpet (Wild Winged-one), clarinet (Sonorous Body) and alto trombone (The Well of Dreams) build up distinct and different layers of communication with the breath and song of the central piece.

During each one-hour performance, the audience can move freely amongst the moving figures of the mobiles. There are some places available to remain seated. As well as the live performances, there is a sound-installation version of the work running from 17–24 March 2008, 12:00–18:00.

Images of the church

A video-sketch of TON, made by artist Volker Maerz

More information on the websites of Zeitgenössische Oper Berlin and the Berliner Festspiele.

Information for further productions of TON:

Although TON was conceived for a specific church in Berlin, the installation can easily be adapted to other spaces of a certain size and volume. The production is possible in daylight or with artificial light, with or without seating. For information about the technical requirements, please contact:

Sabrina Hölzer


An der Rehwiese 3

14129 Berlin

Tel.: +49-(0)30-825 94 96

mobil: 0172-30 28 878


Daryl Buckley

Artistic Director

ELISION Ensemble


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