1998 DU-DICH-DIR for mixed choir a capella (text Paul Celan)

DU-DICH-DIR for mixed choir (1998) is a collection of ten short pieces on German poems from Schneepart by Paul Celan (1920-1970). As the poems themselves are exceptionally short and compact, enveloped in Celan’s characteristically hermetic language and dense with symbolism and imagery, I didn’t want to corrupt the lyrics with any undue vocal experiment or extravagance. I followed the text as closely and ‘naturally’ as possible, all the while trying to find the most suitable atmosphere for each individual subject matter.

The four-part choir regularly subdivides into two, three and four choirs, in other words into 8, 12 and 16 voices. The ideal composition of the choir is therefore in multiples of 16 singers. This procedure allowed for a feature I used quite frequently called dove-tailing, whereby one choir starts a sequence, soon followed by the next one overlapping the first, a third one again overlapping the second etc. These overlaps can be in the same or at different speeds, for example each next voice slowing down or speeding up, in doing so creating strangely shifting rhythms and harmonies, sometimes blurring, sometimes enhancing a musical progression.

The overall effect seemed to provide a certain detachment from the emotional content and to protect me from indulging too much in the expressiveness of the poems. For the listener it takes a few moments to change their interpretation of this effect from ‘bad intonation’ to ‘musical effect’, once it has established itself as a recurrent feature.

The first performance of Du-Dich-Dir was given by the Netherlands Chamber Choir in May 2001 in Vredenburg, Utrecht. A radio recording is available from Donemus. It was also performed by the ASKO choir.

Click here to see the Lyrics.