The performance of your work ‘Tanzsuite mit Deutschlandlied’ closes the series of monographic concerts based on your music and held in Oporto this year. How close do you feel to this work considering it was composed 35 years ago?
My pieces whenever composed- 35 or 10 or 50 years ago - I love them all as indispensable stations of my development and life. Composing the Tanzsuite was an adventure written with heartbeating because of my using familiar rhythmic patterns like Valse, March, Siciliano, Gigue, Polka, Gigue, Galopp etc. So I am feeling close musically,but technically I have left behind these ways to evocate such traditional elements and to put them in another light.
Even though your music has become more accessible, as a composer you have remained extremely faithful to your own, personal style. Is it still necessary to disturb the conservative upper class in 2015?
My music always was and is as „accessible“ as the bolero di Ravel or the „Träumerei“ of Robert Schumann, seems to be accessible to everyone. It was the bourgois audience who was and even seems to remain not accessible. As you can see: my music survived, performed and even loved wherever, my opera sold out in Vienna, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Tokyo, in the Ruhrtriennale, Paris, Berlin, Salzburg, Buenos Aires, next year in Spoleto/USA: what can I expect more? I know that under commercial aspects my music is not intresting, but our „big masters“ had similar problems. I am not Michael Jackson! (whom I admire –but this is another world) And this is not „music to dream by“! –Anyway there always was and still there is the minority of an openminded, sensitive and even enthusiastic audience, ready for adventures, ready to come to terms with estetic irritation, and to accept my music’s invitation to open the philharmonic prison of our ears, our minds, our hearts. I am as faithful to my own as Mozart and Beethoven were faithful to their own. I never intended to disturb, I just followed my musical visions and my creative obsession and pleasure. And in each piece changing and discovering another landscape my music remained faithful to its style as well as we all get elder and change and still are who we are.
1965 saw the presentation of your work ‘Szenario’. What is the reason why you have never returned to the electronic music genre?
Szenario for me was an important step when searching my way in the early sixties. Not less, not more. I do not prevent the piece to be presented. Electronic music: all my students had to study it ut I can live without. Sounds produced by digital technic might be somehow „interesting“, but I am not interested in somehow „interesting“ sounds. They do not touch me and they don’t have the incredible intense Aura of our traditional instruments and the magic intensity and presence when being performed by a musician. If you need a somehow science fiction landscape – ok, why not.
Do you sense in young, current musicians the same radical and transgressive attitude as in some composers from your generation?
Yes I do! But I am bit tired of those unclear adjectives as „radical“ or „transgressive“. The problem for young composers is not to find new sounds. This might be a botanic ambition. The problem – not so easy, I know – is to make possible new ways of listening, to discover new antennas in our mind. And this is not a question of strange or unfamiliar sounds or shocking noises, but it is a problem to develop new contexts. The C-major sound in the Jupitersymphonie has he same three notes, Do-Mi-Sol, as Wagners ouverture from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: But it is a totally different sound for it is a totally different context.Your colleague Karlheinz Stockhausen was extremely worried about the future of his work. What are your concerns in that respect?
That is not my problem.
Is a transgressive and radical attitude the only possible answer to the apprehension or indifference of some audiences to contemporary music?
Without comparing myself to the big masters of our musical tradition: My music is not more „transgressive“ and „radical“ than the music of Monteverdi, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Schoenberg has been in their times. They were critized and respected, they were hated and they were loved, some were shocked, some were deeply touched, and some were indiffierent. But in fact: as remembering and, by the way, as an appell on our possibilities as spiritful creatures humanity their music, being art, was the best answer to the society in their times, which insisted to misunderstand and to misuse art as a sort of higher entertainment in ordert o have fun or nice comfortable feelings or nice idylls. The Austrian emperor said to Mozart after the performance of Don Giovanni: „not digestable in the stomac of the vienna audience!“
We should finally to be able to learn a bit from this experience given us in the history of our musical culture! Today in order to have an existencial sensation people will pay 500 chf in Bern for making „bunjee jumping“, other people climb on high and dangerous mountains, other people make tourism in the desert, other people pay millions in order to be brought on the moon: OK! But in the concert hall quite a lot prefers to stay in the warm bed of their habitudes – or better in the prison of their laziness. Why not? This is the commercially usable every day’s standardised service to enjoy life with Pop, Rock, or Bebop or Classic, or Ethnic music. But this has nothing to do with the experience of art as an invitation to touch our identity, an invitation, without which we never would have such an incredible rich treasure of styles from the Gregorian Chant via Gesualdo, Bach, Mozart etc. until Mahler, Schönberg, Webern, and the marvelous rich world of Cage, Stockhausen, Nono, Boulez, Nunez, until Sciarrino, Arvo Päärt, Steve Reich, Hosokawa...
You have not been composing much for some years. What is this due to?
Well this is my private problem. All those interviews etc.....Don’t worry, there shall come more. I am not a musical automata.
* Gracias a Luis Fernando Rodríguez Romero y a Casa da Musica por la ayuda prestada para la realización de esta entrevista, motivada por la finalización de la residencia artística de Lachenmann en el mencionado auditorio de Oporto (Portugal).
* Una versión extractada y en castellano de la misma fue publicada el 6 de diciembre de 2015 en El Correo de Andalucía. Puede leerse aquí.