Music in Context – Brigitta Muntendorf
Art is never pure. It always carries traces of its origins and function, its societal role and cultural codes. It is interwoven with its surrounding contexts through countless threads. In order to nonetheless draw the line somewhere, to put art into its own isolated space governed by certain conventions, pictures are put in frames, sculptures on pedestals, theater pieces on stage and music into the concert hall. Alternatively, one could dispense with such arrangements and discover a particular aesthetic potential in the factual non-separation of "art" and "life."
This precisely is what Brigitta Muntendorf does in her music, and she thus proves that at least from an aesthetic perspective it's more interesting to undertake expeditions into the open than to linger in the orbit of familiarity. Composition as artistic research in practice, experimentation with an undetermined result, and the intrepid investigation of yet-to-be-mapped fields of behavior and expression are fundamental strains of Brigitta Muntendorf's poetics and prominent characteristics of her compositions. Her works often resemble laboratory notebooks: whether she devotes herself to an uncommon and scarcely used collection of materials or illuminates certain musical behaviors with compositional means, whether she plumbs the depths of musical niceties or incorporates new art forms of the digital age which came about through the internet or social media - never is she merely supervising prior certainties or rehashing that which is doubtlessly attained, but rather always searching, trying out, taking risks.
One of Brigitta Muntendorf's newest projects, the series Public Privacy, for solo instrument, video, and tape, shows this especially clearly: in it, the composer combines youTube videos of people sing their favorite songs, with actions in real time that engage with the musical and implicit scenic dimension of the video films themselves. Their typical gestures and relations, which reflect the paradoxical nature of the performance situation - at home in one's own room, alone with oneself and the camera, through whose lens a virtual audience of millions is looking in via the Internet - are taken up by the solo instrument on the stage, which deconstructs and replicates them. The performances are, in turn, also recorded and added to the video. The result is an equally engaging and irritating mise en abîme on multiple levels, a palimpsest that branches in all directions and interweaves the music with its medial representation.
Brigitta Muntendorf's interest in mixtures, impurities, and the hybrids of culture have led her to a genre-bending combination of performance, theatricality, electronics, and multimedia elements. Her current work in the realm of experimental music theater methodically investigates the semantic layers of music and scenery. The composer is particularly interested in the musical potential of emotions. In pieces like Sweetheart, Goodbye! (2012), for voice/actress and eight instruments, she first filters out of the text (which is based on scenes from James Joyce's Ulysses) an independent layer of emotive utterances which are then translated into instrumental sounds. The musical material thus derived can then be formed compositionally, while still retaining something of the special semantic sense of its origins.
This special sense, understood as an aesthetic unmistakability, also reigns, after all, in Abschminken ... der kurze Rest vom langen Ende (2012). In collaboration with the video artist Jürgen Palmer, Brigitta Muntendorf enacts in this multimedia miniature a play with identities and projections, in whose camp aesthetic decrepit mimes and music of Bach invoke memories of a long-lost stage culture. Here music theater turns into a place for quasi-stereoscopic insights into the backstage-area of art, it is enriched by those contexts which call themselves "life". Their incorporation is what constitutes the quality and the aesthetic reward of Brigitta Muntendorf's music.
Translation: Philipp Blume