Henning Christiansen: Abschiedssymphonie LP

January 1988

Unplayed vintage stock of the 1988 Edition Block issue. NM/VG+, jacket in perfect shape except for some slight gatefold lumping.

‘Abschiedssymphonie’ (possibly a reference to Haydn’s ‘Farewell Symphony’) is a sublime work constructed from material recorded at the ‘Friedenskonzert’ as performed at the Biennale des Friedens, Hamburg, November 29, 1985. Christiansen took the recordings of this concert away and where he added a variety of sounds: water, stones, hammering and bleating sheep. The concert itself was performed with Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys (who, due to illness, made his contribution from his death bed). There were three pianos onstage, and a telephone was placed on top of the piano for Beuys to contribute, who also requested an oxygen tank be placed underneath the piano. The final recording assembled by Christiansen, ‘Abschiedssymphonie’, shifts from the tranquil to the frenzied, often within a single stroke. Paik plays Chopin and other classical phrases on one piano, and also some violin. A microphone is severely bumped before the voice of Beuys via the telephone appears, reciting a text, confirming his presence. The hiss of escaping air (the oxygen tank, as directed by Beuys) dominates the next passage as the piano refrain continues in the background. The text recited by Beuys also appears on the album’s cover: BEI EINEM WESENSGEMÄSSEN BESCHREIBEN DES GESCHEHENS ZUR BEFREIUNG DER VON DER FÄHIGKEIT GETRAGENEN ARBEIT IS ES DOCH LOGISCH, DASS DAS TRAGENDE ZUERST BEFREIT WERDEN MUSS. Whilst being difficult to translate, Greg Lutz formulated it as such “If you want to free the work resulting from ability, it’s logical to first free the ability.” The final recording remains a potent example of Henning’s ability to combine the everyday into a melange of unusual musical matter. It’s a hybrid work of piano, tape, objects, electronics and an assortment of sound producing devices. All of these elements are mixed with a collage technique resulting in an energy that is unique to the art of juxtaposing disparate elements. The result is a topography of sound that encourages the listener to undertake a broad and unsettling journey. It is difficult to place this within any practice, trend, thought or period of music at this time. Henning was opinionated and stubborn. Both traits allowed him to express a voice that may otherwise have remain unheard. I imagine the voice, being as stubborn as it was, made it difficult for people to position his craft in the general milieu, resulting in it being easier to ignore or avoid then embrace (swim inside).” -Mark Harwood