Mahler Forum

for Music
and Society

für Musik
und Gesellschaft

Commissioned Composition

It is for the second time that the Mahler Forum has commissioned a composition in cooperation with the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna that will see its world premiere at the opening event on July 7, 2023.

The composition Ode to ... by the Korean composer Ingi Kim is based on the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Friedrich Schiller’s text Ode to Joy, which has been reinterpreted by the artist and writer Sarah Rinderer.

Ode to ..., 2023
Ingi Kim (composition), Sarah Rinderer (text)*
for four voices, tuba, percussion, piano, violoncello, and contrabass led by Alja Klemenc

* “The text interweaves various quotes, voices from the variegated reception history Ludwig van Beethoven’s setting of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy. During my research I was astonished to see how easily the text, with its “grand” message of communality can be rendered in various (political) contexts to reflect everything from reverence to exploitation, depending on the desired reading; and what divisions and gaps in meaning thus emerge. My arranged text is an invitation to the audience to listen closely to what is grand and sublime and then to consult the small print, the starry canopy of footnotes.”
Sarah Rinderer

Artistic Intervention

curated by Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein and section.a

Anna Jermolaewa has conceived the artistic intervention of this year’s Mahler Forum for Music and Society. In the context of her installation Lampenfieber [which means “stage fright” or “performance anxiety” in German and literally translates as “lamp fever”], Anna Jermolawea has invited Pamelia Stickney, one of today’s most renowned thereminists, to collaborate with her at the Composing Hut.

Under the motto of wonder as a collective experience, recognition, and reflection, Anna Jermolaewa will take visitors on a performative tour from the beginning of the footpath to Maiernigg through the forest to the Composing Hut. Along the way she will act as an interpreter, recounting the astonishing story of the theremin and its inventor, Lev Sergeyevitch Termen, who later changed his name to Leon Theremin in the United States,.

Anna Jermolaewa is fascinated with the conceptual beauty of the theremin’s development and with its inventor’s complex biography. The instrument, which is also known as etherphone, is the first to be played without physical contact. With its mysterious sounds that seem to be from another world, it has enchanted its audience since its beginnings in the 1920s.

The theremin is considered a precursor of the synthesizer and has been played around the globe, from Lenin to Lou Reed. It functions according to the principle of an electromagnetic distance sensor: the position and the soft movement of the hands within the electric field influence an oscillator. The individual notes blend to create a wondrous sound, its ethereal tones flickering somewhere between violin and voice.

The history of the theremin and of its Russian inventor is as astounding as it is absurd. It leads from inventive genius to global musical success, from an amazed audience and a favorite with society to a disturbing transformation from the instrument’s original idea to an alarm system for the infamous prison of Alcatraz developed on behalf of the FBI and subsequently to concealed microphones for the KGB.

Before the dark sides of his inventions caught up with Leon Theremin, he developed the theremin further both musically and technically with the aid of the instrument’s first virtuoso, Clara Rockmore, among others. Their efforts also brought forth the terpsitone, which they constructed in New York in the 1930s and put to the test with dancers. The terpsitone is a full-body theremin; it is not merely played by the movement of your hands, but by swinging your whole body. Timbre and volume can only be controlled by a second person.

The terpsitone fell into oblivion when Leon Theremin could no longer find dancers capable of properly playing the instrument. It was not possible to coax harmonious, well-tempered tones out of it, as it was so difficult to synchronize a musical ear with a dancer’s movements.

Anna Jermolaewa will reconstruct the terpsitone in the form of a stage in the middle of the forest, right next to the Composing Hut. Visitors and hikers are encouraged to generate sounds through their bodies and thus “compose” music.

On July 8, 2023, the stage in the forest will also be the scene of a performance by Pamelia Stickney, one of today’s most renowned theremin players. During her solo performance entitled Medium: Theremin Orchestra, the musician will interweave composition and improvisation using live loops, building and gradually transforming several layers of monophonic parts. The fragments created by her span from beautiful, almost proto-Baroque lines of melody to abstract and distorted noise blocks full of dissonances and polyrhythmic components. A great admirer of Mahler and knowing that many compositions left the Composing Hut that are now merely known as final results, but the genesis of which remains in the dark, Pamelia Stickney wishes to share the exciting journey of a compositional process with the audience in her performance developed for the Mahler Forum.

Lampenfieber, 2023
Technical Development: Chris Janka
Technical programming: Chris Veigl
Wood, light, theremin, antenna, loudspeaker, battery, solar cell
Diameter: 2 meters, height: 40 centimeters

Visitors to the Composing Hut and passers-by are warmly invited to elicit sound from Lampenfieber by Anna Jermolaewa between July and October 2023.

As a partner of the Mahler Forum, the → kä is presenting the video installation Singing Revolution by Anna Jermolaewa at the center.stage from July to October 2023, daily at 5 pm.