Since reading the book Auge und Ohr (“Eye and Ear”) by Christoph Wagner about ten years ago, I have played with the idea of composing a work based on the historical postcards and shellac recordings compiled in his book. The collection juxtaposes hand-colored picture postcards of a music group and the corresponding historical recording. I was enthralled! The recordings are from the 1920s and when you can also see the musicians in their costumes and surroundings, the music comes to life. The combination is very touching and full of nostalgia for a lost time and music.
My composition Once Around the World is a combination of the postcards partially animated and seen on the screen above the orchestra, recordings heard from a gramophone, live music and narration. The story about the postcards, recordings and journey they were found on is presented in a dialoge between the conductor and his or her Great-grandfather, an animated cartoon figure seen on the screen and interacting with the music.
Structured similar to an opera, the composition is comprised of various forms with specific purposes. There is music imitating and transforming the recordings, music free of external references, music accompanying the narration, music accompanying the recordings, recordings excepts heard pure, narration by itself, and so on. In general, the live music relates to the records as a means of commentary to the music and transformation to the next station on the journey. Each leg of the journey has its own rhythm and rapport between the recording and the orchestra: In Europe the presentation of the records is episodic, each time taken over by the musicians on stage. In Africa and Asia the records are headed en suite, connected with music and narration. Through the USA, the historical recordings are integrated in the live music both underscoring the animated film. In addition individual orchestra groups are in the foreground from station to station. For example in the English reel Morphat Rant the flutes are prominent, in the South Indian Kandaswami Rag Thodi the violas. This way the music is a journey not only around the world, but also through the orchestra.
With Once Around the World I wish to take the audience, young and old, on a musical journey not only around the globe but also back in time, and share my enthusiasm and endearment for the sounds of diverse music making from all over the planet.