DOKUMENTATION I(from: Fools’ Offensive) (1993/96)
Text by Helmut Oehring (G)
voice,soprano(male),3 deaf soloists;
ob.sax(=bss cl).tpt.trbn.tuba-perc(2)-harp.prepared pft(=sampling keyboard)-elec.gtr(=elec.bass) with volume pedal-vln.vlc-live electronics
Boosey & Hawkes / Bote & Bock
Teatro Lirico Sperimentale, Spoleto
Danielle Abbado, director
Conductor: Roland Kluttig
Company: ensemble di musica contemporanea
Documentation I is the attempt to fill silence with a grammar of sounds and movement. Music exists only as a mere language of signs. Like other sign languages, it can contract past, present and future into a single movement. The sounds and noises in Oehring's Documentation I approach the limit of what is audible, only the room is vibrating, not structured by time and measure. This eloquent silence is a potential form of language, but it is also the room of Oehring's own early childhood, when he – the son of deaf parents – only learned to speak at the age of five. The period before is full of inner conflicts, misunderstandings, failed communication; it was only much later that Oehring felt a sort of happiness over the experience of a world of signs and gestures. He draws the audience into his own realm that is torn between hearing and deafness: There are those who listen but do not understand what they are seeing, and others who can see but not hear. Thus both come closer to each other, as at the first Italian performance of Documentation I when the hearing audience joined the silent applause of the deaf.
"At the end, great applause. Yet also silent. Swaying their raised hands, imitating the gestures with which the three actresses on the stage thanked the audience. A moving applause without sound which touched the hearts of all present, making the composer’s message even more intense and immediate. Thus the first performance of Helmut Oehring’s Dokumentation I at the Teatro Melisso at the ‘Sperimentale’ was a moment of extraordinary collective emotion, of great humane and human empathy.
Beyond the wonderful performance, the vivid interpretation and the... enormously interesting original score (which emerged as winner of the ‘Orpheus’ competition), all this was primarily in honour of the sense of poetic challenge displayed by the young Berlin-based composer Helmut Oehring."
(Angelo Foletto, la Repubblica, 04.09.1996 - review of the first performance)
"From the first movements to last an our later, one was compelled by the authority of a marvellous accurate ear. Brutalist minimality has been rendered with such finesse as to emerge in the end oddly sensitised. When this inventive tissue of noise both pitched and unpitched tended towards a recognisable little song shape, the feeling was of inevitability brought about by craft and skill."
(Robin Holloway, The Spectator, 26.07.1997 - on the UK première at the Almeida Theatre, London)