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De Staat


I wrote De Staat (The Republic) as a contribution to the discussion about the place of music in politics. To keep the issues straight it is necessary to differentiate between three aspects of the social phenomenon called music: 1. Its conception (devising and planning by the composer), 2. Its production (performance) and 3. Its consumption. Production and consumption are by definition if not political then at least social. The situation is more intricate when it comes to the actual composing. Many composers feel that the act of composing is 'suprasocial'. I don’t agree. How you arrange your musical material, what you do with it, the techniques you use, the instruments you score for, all of this is determined to a large extent by your own social circumstances, your education, environment and listening experience, and the availability—or non-availability—of symphony orchestras and government grants. The only point on which I agree with the liberal idealists is that abstract musical material—pitch, duration and rhythm—is suprasocial: it is part of nature. There is no such thing as a fascist dominant seventh. The moment the musical material is ordered, however, it becomes culture and, as such, a given social fact.

I decided to draw upon Plato to illustrate what I mean. Everyone sees the absurdity of Plato’s statement that the Mixolydian mode should be banned because of its damaging effect on the development of character. It is equally clear that he was confusing the issue in wanting to ban dulcimers and the craftsmen who made them from his ideal state. What he wished to ban was the social effect of the music played on them, something similar perhaps to the 'demoralising nature' of the Rolling Stones’ concerts.

My second reason for writing De Staat is in direct contradiction to the first. Perhaps I regret the fact that Plato was wrong: if only it were true that musical innovation represented a danger to the State! When Bertolt Brecht returned to Europe after the war he chose to settle in East Germany. The first play he wrote there was censored by the party. But Brecht said to the assembled Western journalists, 'In what Western country would the government take the time and trouble to spend thirty hours discussing my plays with me?'

De Staat has nothing to do with Greek music, except perhaps for the use of oboes and harps and for the fact that the entire work is based on tetrachords, groups of four notes, which also explains the scoring for the groups of four.

Just before the final choral section the orchestra splits into two identical halves, as announced earlier in the work. They play two melodies which sound like one because their rhythms are complementary (the performers play one after the other).

Polyrhythm is introduced for the first time in the coda following the choral finale, with the two orchestras each playing their own separate score. But this time they have the same melody, a canon. Finally, in the last bars, they attain the homophony introduced shortly after the opening choral section. I regard this as the major subject of the work.

from notes by Louis Andriessen © 2011
English: Richard Wigmore


Andriessen: Anaïs Nin & De Staat
SIGCD273Download only


Movement 1: Beginning
Movement 2: Choir 1
Track 11 on SIGCD273 [17'49] Download only
Movement 3: Choir 2
Track 12 on SIGCD273 [11'15] Download only
Movement 4: Choir 3
Track 13 on SIGCD273 [3'46] Download only

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