Why did you call your piece Mural?
A mural is a surface covered with inscriptions, texts, pictures, and colours. In painting, murals are the surfaces of walls that have been painted on (hence the murals in the Sistine Chapel, Rivera’s murals in Mexico, Chagall’s in New York’s MET). Murals can also be found as an element of Islamic architecture and interior decorative art.
In my composition, this word acquires a special significance. I love writing: as ornament, structure, and process. Already my third opera GRAMMA had writing as its subject. I derive inspiration and associations from that image. A mural is, therefore, a sum total of different scripts, of texts, structures, and processes, which in music develop and aggregate in time. Time is for music what space is for a mural. Multilayered complexity is a part of that musical concept. Also the score has something of a mural in it: it is a paper surface on which writing (or its representation in sound) is graphically arranged.
What is the structure of your composition?
Various processes and structures emerge in the course of the music. Recalling and forgetting are part of those processes. The superimposition, isolation, and conflict of (musical) scripts are also aspects of the piece. Simply speaking, my composition has been influenced by writing: writing as ornamentation, as a repetition of patterns, and as calligraphy. I have been especially influenced by calligraphy, rooted in Islam and the Far East. I arranged the elements, as a calligrapher does, on a kind of surface. Space and surface (the score) become an experience in the dimensions of time and listening.
What stylistic means and techniques of composition did you apply?
I frequently create new types of sound by means of traditional instruments. Thus, my orchestral sound is determined by processes and structures in which the individual instruments cannot be easily recognised and distinguished. It is a new dimension of the orchestra, and an attempt to produce a new type of sound. The point of reference is writing, the wall, ornaments, and elements in that space (the score or time). In this work, orchestration strongly depends on varying levels of complexity—as in a mural. Frequently the whole surface is completely filled up (Martin Walser has recently tried something similar in literature, on paper).
How long have you worked on this piece?
I have considered this idea for a year, and gradually came to understand more and more clearly how “writing” can become possible in my music. After completing AURA, my latest stage work, I concentrated first and foremost on this work.
Work on ornamentation and on “surfaces” corresponds to my interest in Islam. I draw upon Islamic art (painting, ornaments such as those in Alhambra, Granada), using such elements as repetitions in the material, symmetries, geometry as an extension of my material, ornamentation, as well as semantics. What we also have here is irregularity of processes and on the surface. Space frequently becomes oversaturated. All these elements are always close at hand in my work as a composer.
(Interview by Carola Anhalt, December 2009,
printed in the liner notes of the work’s world
in Cologne on 4 February 2010.)