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ter Schiphorst, Iris: Vergeben/Bruchstücke zu Edgar Varèse (2007) 15'
for percussion, wind instruments and piano


4(I=picc).4.3.bcl.0.dbn-4.4(I=picctpt).4(IV=btrbn).1-perc(2,I=solo):I=BD(muted)/SD/2tom-t(lo,med)/3cym/Crash cym/4timp/vib; II=3cym(lo,med,hi)/tam-t(med)/Crash cym/metal plate/glsp-pft(=kbd).

Abbreviations (PDF).


This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere

Funkhaus Wallrafplatz, Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal, Köln
Dirk Rothbrust, perc / Udo Falkner, pft / WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln / Peter Rundel

Composer's Notes


I was instantly attracted by the general theme, ‘Double’, and thus the idea of referring to an existing composition. It offered the opportunity to approach the compositional process from a different angle.
A particularly interesting aspect was the fact that this more or less coincidentally touched upon questions along the way which I had been concerned with many years ago, such as the relation between recipient/listener and a musical work in the ‘age of mechanical reproduction’.
At that time, I had been a passionate reader of Roland Barthes, who wrote at one point: “Traditional societies knew two places for listening, both of which were alienated: the arrogant type of listening by someone superior in rank and the subserviant type by subordinates. A liberal society is impossible if it is based on the condition that the old places (and routines) of listening are maintained: those of the believer, the disciple and the patient.”
This was the time when I discovered ‘new music’ – and I remember how big my disappointment was when I thought I had found certain types mentioned by Barthes (‘arrogant’ or ‘subserviant’ listening) even within this circle.
This contradicted my long-standing conviction that it was less important to pursue a work’s meaning as defined by some authority than to trust one’s own senses and to allow space for one’s own way of listening.
I had always imagined a kind of listening based on ‘dialogue’, an active, dynamic process of listening which is not arrested once a work has been ‘understood’, or ends in reverent silence when faced with great works of art, but which continues to listen and follow the traces that the works have left in one’s body. A kind of listening which leads on to writing (i.e. an idea of writing that, as I then thought, included the new audio-visual recording media).

For Vergeben … (Forgiving ... / also: Taken ...), I came back to those thoughts and tried to integrate them into the compositional process.

As the instrumentation was more or less defined from the start (wind instruments, percussion and piano), I soon had the idea of referring back to Varèse, whose Équatorial and Désert had, many years ago, been my ‘initiation’ into contemporary music. At that time, they seemed ‘wild’ and ‘raw’ to me, and I remember they had provoked a strong physical reaction in me at some points. It was exactly this reaction I wanted to explore, entering into a (with all due care in using those terms) ‘sensual’ rather than a ‘content-based’ (semantic, structural, dramaturgic, etc.) dialogue.

To that purpose, I obtained recordings of those works, listening to them over and over again. Next I cut away anything which either did not suit the instrumentation or did not mean anything to me. From what was left, I selected those passages which made the strongest impression on me and moved me most.
Those remaining fragments formed the basis of Vergeben .
I began to ‘play around’ with those little pieces, interleaving them, superimposing them on each other, slowing them down or accelerating them, arranging them reversely etc. – in other words, I rearranged them regardless of content-related or semantic connections, only following my aural sense, my pleasure in listening, freely going by Roland Barthes: “The pleasure of the text, that is the moment when my body follows its own ideas – for my body doesn’t have the same ideas as myself …” (1973)
During that process, some of the fragments gradually mutated into forms resembling a refrain while others demanded additional material (it was not until much later that I read in Riemann’s encyclopedia that ‘refrain’ literally means ‘fragment’…). Little by little, a verse-like structure evolved. However, the abundance of material was exuberant. Without wanting to, I had written more than 40 minutes of music. It eventually turned out that the hardest part of the work was to reduce it to the extent agreed for the occasion – 10–15 minutes.

This was how, over the course of time, my new work developed. Though initially based on Varèse’s two pieces (thus on material from someone else, on which I could claim no copyright), the result had little in common with them – even if my precursor does in fact echo in some places.
Seen from this point, my work is not a real ‘double’, not even a ‘shadow’, but rather the result of a process intended to pursue the traces that certain fragments of Varèse’s music had left in me, allowing them to unfold in their own way. It is the result of handling this underlying material in a self-aware manner – a self-aware kind of listening, as it were.
(translation: Andreas Goebel)

Press Quotes


“The ‘Double’ theme was tackled in multi-faceted variations and aesthetic approaches by Iris ter Schiphorst in her Vergeben/Bruchstücke zu Edgar Varèse, a work of dynamic consistency.” (Gerhard Rohde, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 5 November 2007)

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