Plywood is a natural substance not necessarily associated with Paradise; in the shape of a flute, however, plywood sounds may very well orbit around Eden or ascend heavenwards. For surprising sound gates to open, all it takes is an idea – and one of those ideas the German flute constructor Paetzold had. Square-shaped and massive wood organ pipe-like lacquered plywood constructions of impressive size and a tonal depth effect release smooth, powerful, at higher pitches even sweet sounds – extremely durable sound bodies that would even survive surprising weather changes in paradisaic realms. Several Paetzold flutes played at once create organ-like whooshes and swooshes – a plenum comparing to full registers soon to dissolve in light spherical sounds or transform into cool earthly winds.
“In Paradise” is where the Plenum ensemble aims to end up with this: Seven Vienna-based musicians stretch a rainbow from the sheer harmonies of Shakespearean madrigalists to imaginative creations of contemporary composers who have developed a desire for Paradise during unstable times here on Earth, set off for dream worlds or at least tried to find a balance in musical and other organisms. With distinct articulation the flutes transform Renaissance songs to polyphonic, wordless chants and form a sound spectrum for three world premieres by Gunter Schneider, Pauline Oliveros and Burkhard Stangl.
For many centuries now, the monks in Russian Orthodox and some Catholic monasteries have been summoned to prayer on hardwood planks brought to life and sound by hammers. The semantron or simantra, shaped from long wooden planks, generates vibrations that transform to sounds much alike a heavenly glockenspiel orchestra playing in the distance, while the immediately perceivable rhythms unfold from the primitiveness of the natural material.
With his composition “Timber”, the US-American composer Michael Gordon has laid out a si-mantra of rhythmically and metrically multi-layered patterns for Slagwerk Den Haag. Ritual-like beat series and sound strings originate from the ancient monastery instruments and spread throughout the room. Musicians and the audience alike are being sucked into a cyclic ritual. The scales from the sounds stroke on the semantrons rise and fall, move towards each other and drift apart, form cycles and queues, accelerate and decelerate, turn upside down, proceed from hard beats to fluttering and flowing ones, interleave and interfere, and unfold into seemingly endless horizons. The paths to Paradise may be confused, yet they all lead to the same destination.
Through bamboo humanity entered the world – according to the belief of the people from the Indian Andaman Islands; the baby moon princess of the Japanese fairy tale world Taketori Monogatari is found inside a bamboo cane; bamboo is a good luck charm and symbolic for a long life. In the form of drums, maracas, flutes, and zithers, bamboo puts on oscillating musical shapes. At New Year’s and religious holiday celebrations in Japan and China, burning bamboo unfolds explosive sound agglomerations and festoons. As a kid in Japan, Akio Suzuki was impressed by this kind of bamboo fireworks music. Exclusively for Imago Dei, the phenomenal musician, sound artist and instrument constructor Suzuki draws from this childhood memory to create a performance in the inner courtyard of the Minorite monastery entitled “do n do”, dondo-yaki being the name of the costumes worn at the fiery celebrations in Japan. Suzuki takes himself as well as the Japanese dancer Hiromi Miyakita and the festival audience to Paradise and to Utopia with a ritual where burning bamboo twigs emit sparks and sounds and choreography captures and fills the entire place – a bonfire of joyful celebrations lighting up holiday traditions from various cultures. And the Easter Vigil miracle begins.