The audiovisual project Untitled [Krenek] is a poetic approach to the life and work of the Austrian composer Ernst Krenek. The starting point of the project is Krenek's 1956 electro-acoustic composition Spiritus Intelligentiae Sanctus op.152 for solo voices and tape. In an interview Krenek spoke about the background of this composition and explained that it was an artistic approach to hypnagogic perceptions. Krenek spoke of "knocking and rumbling noises" that he often noticed when falling asleep. These noises were accompanied by high, gliding tones which he compared to a violin from afar. The possibilities of electronic sound generation which was a new technologie at this time offered Krenek a chance to approach these hypnagogic phenomena in a new way and to realize this on tape. Untitled [Krenek] takes up these hypnagogic associations of Krenek and spans a dreamlike, unreal world of images and sounds within which preserved video material by Krenek and fragments of Krenek's music fluctuate.
The visual level of Untitled [Krenek] is dedicated to the aspect of homelessness, which plays a defining role in Krenek's biography. As an Austrian composer with Bohemian roots, Krenek initially developed a deep connection to his home country. He collected further cultural influences in the course of longer stays in Switzerland and Paris before returning to Vienna at the time of Austro-Fascism. In 1938, however, he had to leave his homeland again as a "degenerate artist" due to National Socialism and emigrated to the USA. There he pursued extensive teaching activities in New York and Minnesota and even took on American citizenship in 1945. In 1950 Krenek stayed in Germany for a long time, where he performed many of his works as a conductor. In 1966 he moved to Palm Springs/LA, where he lived with his wife Gladys Nordenstrom-Krenek until the end of his life. In interviews and his own writings, Krenek constantly addressed his torn existence between Austria, Germany and the USA and described his own felt homelessness as a "position between the chairs".
Untitled [Krenek] traces this cultural in-between position, processing old interview recordings and surviving footage of Krenek, his wife Gladys and their home in Palm Springs. This starting material, which shows clear signs of aging and partly has poor image quality, was enlarged and masked using AI-based image processing technology. The area to be masked is defined manualy at a specific frame and the AI calculates the following frames in this area independently. In the course of this masking process, however, errors are constantly occurring whichv have special aesthetic qualities. The resulting images are strongly reminiscent of dreamlike conditions. The silhouettes and empty spaces in these surreal scenarios resemble a peculiarity of dream memories, in which many details can no longer be clearly identified on closer inspection or are even missing completely. The result is overlapping images from Krenek's life that blur into each other without ever stabilizing in a tangible moment. In this sea of distant memories Krenek himself floats around as a vague silhouette and is confronted with fragments of his life.
Untitled [Krenek] takes up the compositional fluidity of styles in Krenke's work and makes use of a memorizing compositional technique that Krenek used in his String Quartet No. 8 op. 233. In this string quartet he recalled his previous work for this instrumentation, which includes atonal, twelve-tone and neoclassical works, and throughout the piece he used quotations from all his previous string quartets. The surviving sketches of this string quartet suggest that these quotations are not just excerpts but rather characteristics that Krenek considered essential for the respective quartet. These essences of his seven string quartets fit into the course of the composition without standing out and are aimed at and left again like a station. In line with this citation method, excerpts from all eight string quartets and quotations from other selected works by Krenek have been incorporated into the composition of Untitled [Krenek]. The basic tonal tone of the composition is based on the tonal peculiarity of Spiritus Intelligentiae Sanctus and spreads out a tonal landscape of nostalgic synthetic sounds and alienated voices the course of which essential excerpts from Krenek's complete works are gradually interwoven. This reflects Ernst Krenek's cross-style work and at the same time merges it into a homogeneous mass of sound as part of a fluid compositional process.
The interplay of the two layers of Untitled [Krenek] unfolds a hazy stream of thoughts of images and sounds from Krenek's life, which lets Krenek's mind float through a memory-laced dream sequence.
The audiovisual project Untitled [Krenek] was created as part of the 'Ernst-Fall' special Covid-19 grant donated by the Ernst Krenek Institute in Krems.
MandelBaum (aka Manuel Baumer)