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Decca Phase 4
LANG (b. 1971)
Missa Beati Pauperes Spiritu
Peter Gerwig Romirer
Natalia Pschenitschnikova (voice)
Roland Dahinden (trombone)
Gunter Meinhardt (percussion)
Thomas Musil and IEM Graz (live electronics)
rec. live, musikprotokoll, 2005
WWE1CD 20271 [60:44]
This is my first encounter
with the music of Klaus Lang. At the age of 36 he has several
long-format works out for various ensembles, from a 50-minute
chamber piece (einfalllt. stille.) and a 40-minute
work for string quartet (Sei-jaku) to this work, a
full-scale mass, with traditional texts, for small ensemble.
not at all typical by way of other masses I’ve heard, is to
these ears quite moving and movingly played by this ensemble.
Born in Graz and studying
at the university there and in Vienna, he splits his time between
his hometown and Berlin. According to various biographical sources
online, his major influences are the 16th-17thcenturies
- he has written theoretical works on Palestrina’s music -
and American music of the 20th century. In listening
to the present disc, one could also imagine that Lang has
a fairly healthy interest in aspects of Asian music as well.
mentions in the liner-notes that, rather than attempt rationally
to discuss the Bible, masses should instead empty the mind, “for
blessed are those that are poor in spirit, and thereby free”.
This speaks to the title of the work, as well as its aim — such
a mind, emptied of the things of this world, will be more
receptive to things not of this world.
From descriptions of his other
works in various reviews, the overall tone and tenor of this
work seems to be consistent with Lang’s aesthetic: sparse, spare
- rather like Morton Feldman with a dash of electronics: Aphex
Twin’s ambient works. Almost the entirety of this mass bears
a striking resemblance to a relatively unknown ambient track
by David Bowie, Ian Fish, U. K. Heir, found on his under-appreciated
soundtrack to the television show The Buddha of Suburbia.
In fact, the string drone found throughout the mass and on
song is the same note, and the overall treatment is similar.
Rather than a guitar quietly picking out the notes of the show’s
theme song, Lang’s work has the cantor intoning the traditional
texts of the mass. Those who might greatly enjoy the Bowie
song mentioned above will likely also enjoy this work, though
might find such spareness extended over the course of an hour
to be a difficult listen.
Many however, will find this
piece an intriguing exploration of the area where early Western
church music, Asian religious music, and modern electronic ambient
music intersect. Nowhere are the electronics invasive or pervasive,
and even when the vocalists enter, they do so in a way that
seems an organic progression.
The booklet text by the composer
speaks to issues and ideas that run beyond the work. This may
leave some wanting a bit more information regarding specifics
on the piece, as well as the texts used. Included on the disc
is a PDF file of the handwritten short-score of the main movements,
including texts and even diagrams showing instrument placement.
Specific instructions are given in pages following the final
musical movement to all of the performers for the piece. Unfortunately
these instructions are not translated, so unless you are up
on your German, these quite detailed keys to the work remain
The performances and recording
aesthetic fit very well the intent of the piece, not calling
attention to themselves. Overall, this is an extremely quiet
piece, rewarding those who listen to it as ambient music – which,
as Brian Eno has mentioned, is an extension of Eric Satie’s “wallpaper
music,” there to be ignored, but also inviting closer study.
It also makes for an intriguing setting of a religious text,
both reverent and novel in its contribution to a long tradition
of musical masses.
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