A sound installation in four parts

(2023 version in German at Acud, Berlin)

PART 1 (July 7) Love your Neighborhood

PART 2 (September 8): Simple Communication

PART 3 (October 6) The Fragility of Freedom

PART 4 (December 8) Inner and Outer Borders

I’ve long been intrigued that reading a poem aloud can change a person’s voice as the elevated language of poetry takes hold, creating a mysterious effect on the spoken word. For years I’ve recorded poets with the idea that I might find the melodies in their voices—a music that is grounded in both the solidity of syntax and rhythms of breath. These compositions accompany the voices of poets and writers while translating their writings into a musical language. But when a poem is translated into another spoken or written language, the translator must decide what aspect of the poem to focus on: The literal or symbolic meaning of the words, for instance, or their cadence. My inspiration is to move past that dilemma and create musical translations based on the voices of the poets themselves. The written words then, are no longer the goal, but rather something akin to a musical score that’s brought to life acoustically.

The theme of Love&Democracy stems from the necessity of our times. They are a silent duo. Without a love of place and our neighbors, we cannot truly have a democracy, and without treating each other fairly—democratically—there can be no real love. The German Jurist and politician, Lore Maria Peschel-Gutzei told me during an interview for WDR, “Democracy is the most difficult form of government. One must care enough to struggle and respect and negotiate.” Love and democracy are vital, but both can be unfathomably complex.

The four categories of the sound installation grew from ideas I developed while writing my 2019 WDR radio feature about the German constitution, Grundgesetzland. Each section follows an operatic structure, with street interviews about the subject matter functioning as recitative and the voices of the poets forming the arias. This ever-growing initiative so far includes the poets and writers: Marica Bodrožić, Angélica Freitas, Daniel Kahn, Gregor Dotzauer, Uljana Wolf, Tomaz Venclova, Tom Sleigh, Isaac Goodman, Gregor Hens, Ellen Hinsey, Marina Frenk, Tom Drury, Jan Wagner, Tom Bresemann, and more.

Love&Democracy is also inspired by my 2016 project built around the poems of Rose Auslaender, where I used her works in three different ways: The poem as spoken word, accompanied by music composed around the speaker’s voice; the poem as Sprechgesang (speaksinging, which is a mixture of the two as used by Berg and Schoenberg and 20’s style cabaret); and the poem set to song.

Behind All Words won the 2016 Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (semester)

SPOKEN POEM (Speaker: Clueso)

SPRECHGESANG (speaksinger: Jelena Kuljić)

SONG FORM (Singer: Jelena Kuljić)