Immediately after I finished composing my chamber work “Das siebente Siegel” (“The Seventh Seal”), the subject of which is the end of the world, the Coronavirus pandemic erupted all over the world. People succumbed to panic: they began to hoard food and other items, to isolate themselves and their families within the apparent safety of their own four walls and wait for the end of the catastrophe or perhaps even a miracle. The biblical Noah built an ark to save his family and every kind of animal from the Flood: this connection inspired me to build an ark in sound. I chose certain chords to act as scaffolding for this ark and then sought to depict in alternate fashion the gigantic waves outside the craft and the powerless humans and fearful animals inside it. For the composition’s tonal organization I devised a 12-note row that begins with the B-A-C-H theme, thereby going against the principles of the Second Viennese School in that this sequence of notes partly sounds tonal and sentimental. On occasions where it is not used as an actual row, the pattern is varied at pleasure, becoming transformed following compositional need into a melody, theme or motive. With this little musical offering I extend a wish to all people, known or unknown to me, liked or hated, that they survive the ‘Flood’ represented by the virus.
Vienna, November 2020
Translation: Michael Talbot