Þorgerður Þórhallsdóttir
Kóreógrafískt ljóð fyrir hljómsveit - Choreographic poem for orchestra
24. 06. 2017 - 13. 08. 2017
Choreographic poem for Orchestra

Swirling clouds afford glimpses, through rifts, of waltzing couples. The clouds scatter little by little; one can distinguish an immense hall with a whirling crowd. The scene grows progressively brighter. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo. An imperial court, about 1855.
Maurice Ravel, 1920

To compose a ballet about a Waltz.

Ravel composed a ballet about the Waltz in 1920, a tribute to the Waltz, a tribute to a time in history which was coming to an end. When the ballet impresario heard La Valse for the first time he said that is wasn’t a ballet but a portrait of a ballet.

When La Valse was performed people thought it symbolized carnage, horror and the trouble the European nations faced after the World War I. Ravel on the other hand continued to say repeatedly that the work had no political references and was about nothing but the Waltz in all its glory.

The world is always coming to an end and just as for the dancers that Ravel envisioned, is art a sanctuary. It can deliver us from the world and manifests and arouses emotions by imitating them, for example with climax, cadence, suspense and release.

Mankind’s history is a story of progression and evolution. We continue going forward and when we have reached a certain point we cannot go backwards. A problem we face in our time is that our historical context is in itself ironic. Nothing means what it seems. We live in a time of references, copies, imitations and pessimism: in an all-encompassing irony. Umberto Eco states that when modernism couldn’t progress further in innovation, the post-modern reply was to acknowledge the past. Since we cannot reject the past then it must be revised, with irony and without innocence.
I don’t see the past as a linear timeline. The present is never without the past, the tenses are always intertwined and together. Deleuze said that we have trouble sensing the past but it has not ceased to be even though it has passed.

Maurice Ravel composed La Valse between 1919 and 1920 after he was asked to compose music for a ballet. Ravel had already begun to compose a tribute to the Waltz and to Johann Strauss II (who had composed a large number of waltzes) under the name Wien and continued with that idea. At this time Europe was still an open wound after World War I and it was a time of unrest. The Viennese Waltz symbolizes a certain time in history which was coming to an end, the Austrian-Hungarian empire had disintergrated.

Ravel based his composition from dance and movement and I based the video piece Choreographic Poem for Orchestra on his composition. It is a silent four channel video installation, one channel for each group of instruments in the orchestra: strings, brass, woodwind and percussion. Silent scenes and light in continuous movement, interpret the beautiful but sinister piece of music.

Kling & Bang works in collaboration with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna and The City of Reykjavík
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