First performance: 25 September 2008 – Strassbourg
Barbara Hannigan, soprano
Conductor: Jean-Philipp Wurtz
OCTET was commissioned by the Reina Sofia School of Music and was composed in memoriam of Karlheinz Stockhausen.
The number ‘8’ is linked to Stockhausen in a number of ways: he would have turned 80 in 2008 and he would mostly use the 8-channel sound technique in his electronic compositions, for example in ‘Octophonie’.
OCTET is the musical realisation of Samuel Beckett’s radio play “Embers”. Some extracts of it are also set to music in another version titled OCTET PLUS, where an additional soprano solo appears. The two pieces do not need to be performed together.
The unusual wind-instrument arrangement (flute, clarinet, two bassoons, two trumpets, two trombones) makes it possible for the musicians to perform Stravinsky’s Octet in their concert programme.
Text: fragments from Beckett’s Embers
That sound you hear is the sea, we are sitting on the strand.
I mention it because the sound is so strange, so unlike the sound of the sea,
that if you didn´t see what it was you wouldn´t know what it was.
I never finished anything, everything always went on for ever.
Now Miss! Elbows in Miss! Hands down Miss! Now Miss!
Back straight Miss! Knees in Miss! Now Miss! Tummy in Miss!
Chin up Miss! Now Miss! Eyes front Miss! Now Miss! Now Miss!
Waiting in the dark, no light, only the light of the fire,
and no sound of any kind, only the fire.
Dead silence then, not a sound, only the fire.
Silence in the house, not a sound.
I hope you put on your jaegers. Did you put on your jaegers, Henry?
Henry: What happened was this, I put them on and then I took them off again and then I put them on again and then I took them off again and then I took them on again and then I –
Ada: Have you them on now?
Henry: I don´t know.