Apocalipsis cum Figuris


Tape (4 tracks, at Institute of Sonology, Royal Conservatoire, The Hague), 4 percussionists, 2 pianos, 3 pop(!) singers, conductor

UA: 10/20/1984, Donaueschinger Musiktage, (Slagwerkgroep Den Haag; Gunilde Cramer + Yukiko Sugawara, piano, Jan Hendriks, Ernst Jansz + Henny Vrienten, voices; Cond.: Konrad Boehmer)

CD : Acousmatrix 5, Electronic Works, BVHAAST 9011 (CD 1990) [EDISON AWARD], Performer(s) : Geoffrey Madge und Fréderic Rzewski (Pno.), Het Haags Slagwerkensemble, Jan Hendriks, Ernst Jansz, Henny Vrienten (voices), Dagmar Krause and Phil Minton (voices on the tape), cond.: Konrad Boehmer

APOCALIPSIS CUM FIGURIS was commissioned by the Dutch National Radio (NOS) and composed in 1983/84. Boehmer started the work immediately after the completion of his music drama Doctor Faustus.

“Apocalipsis” too is inspired by a ‘Faustus’-figure: the composer Adrian Leverkühn, the main character of Thomas Mann’s novel “Doctor Faustus”.

In this novel two of the most important compositions of this – fictious – composer are described comprehensively. One of them is an “Apocalipsis cum figuris”, which turns all established esthetic norms on their head topsy-turvy. 

Everything which was considered ‘beautiful’ in traditional music stands in Leverkühns work for the ‘ugly’, the ‘banal’, whereas all outbreaks of modern music – screaming, roaring glissandi, sharp dissonants – stand for the ‘beautiful’. Boehmer decided to put into music Thomas Mann’s description of that non-existing piece. 

Three pop singers, 2 pianos and 4 percussionists act against a wall of organized noise (a 4 track tape). The entire material on the tape consists of vocal sounds and quotations from texts by the ‘apocaliptic’ apostle John, Karl Marx, Marquis de Sade, Poerre Louÿs, Giacomo Leopardi and others. 

The three singers yell and scream as if they were the devils (which should not be missed in a good apocalyps!). After having produced isolated sounds, they gradually introduce more continuous text-passages, and finally they sing a tasteless, Elton-John-like, hymn in C-major.

The text-passages are based upon an ebullition by the Russian composer Alexander Skriabine, who by time and while believed that he was God. 

The premiere took place on October 20, 1984, Donaueschinger Musiktage. The piece has been performed or broadcasted since in many European countries as well in the U.S.A.

NEUE ZÜRICHER ZEITUNG 27.3.96: … sein vielleicht extremstes Stück: die “Apocalipsis cum figuris”, die seinerzeit in Donaueschingen (1984) einigen Protest hervorgerufen hat. Eine dichte Tonbandmontage von Texten, vokalen Gerräuschen, elektronischen Transformationen und Elektronik wird zugespielt, drei Schlagzeuger, zwei Pianisten und drei Popsänger werden live beschäftigt. Entstanden ist ein fast vierzigminütiges Pandämonium von einer Radikalität, die gewiss über das hinausgeht, was Thomas Mann seinem Adrian Leverkühn im “Doktor Faustus” andichtete. Boehmer jedenfalls hat sich von Mann zu einem seiner interessantesten Stücke inspirieren lassen. (Alfred Zimmerlin)

You can download the score here: Apocalipsis.pdf