Indeterminacy and the Modern Lied: The Composer/Performer Interface in Hans-Joachim Hespos’ Weiβschatten

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


‘Vocal tone colours, consonants swung backwards and forwards, over-tones, no vibrato, unfiltered, still not moving, open, barely audible attack and release’
These are the instructions for the opening note of the soprano part in Hans-Joachim Hespos’ Weiβschatten (2017), an extended 11 minute Lied, for soprano and piano, composed for me in 2017. Typical of Hespos’ style, the score is covered with dense and detailed instructions, conveyed through a linguistically ‘fluid’ 3-page glossary, and in both conventional and graphic notation, as well as detailed written directions on the score itself. The work explores an extremely wide range of vocal and pianistic tone colours, also deploying a widely leaping tessitura for the voice and full range of the keyboard. The notation indicates both types of sound and ways of producing sound, while the text of Weiβschatten is semi-improvised, sometimes provided by the composer, sometimes by the performers. There is a similarly improvised section of musical/textual/theatrical material in the second half; so, where does this leave the performer/composer interface? Who is actually composing Weiβschatten; the composer, the performers, both, neither?
Using concepts drawn from the work of Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), I intend to explore the ways in which Weiβschatten creates a collaborative space for the composer and the performers; where the hierarchy of composer and performers is indeterminate and in a constant state of flux; where the element of surprise, for both composer and performer, is key, and where notation, whether conventional or graphic, in combination with the score’s improvisatory elements, not only allows the performers the agency to create, but demands it, in a truly intersemiotic translation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInstitute for Musical Research Conference: ‘The Art Song Platform – Traditions and Current Practices’, Goldsmiths University, London.
StateUnpublished - May 10 2019


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