Konrad Boehmer

Woutertje Pieterse + Song From Afar

  • AllMusic Rating
    3
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

This piece of music theater by Konrad Boehmer -- who is equally if not more well-known for his entirely unlistenable electronic "music"-- is based on a novel by the cantankerous 19th century Dutch writer Multaltuli of the same name, is you guessed it, a "highly experimental work." The words "highly experimental" fit here simply because Boehmer rightly believed that it was impossible for an opera, with its bel canto singing, to encompass the scope of the author's indictment of 19th century Dutch society and its emotionally "powerful" message. The story involves the destruction of "an ingenious, dreamy child's soul by middle class education." Utilizing nearly 30 singers and 32 members of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Boehmer creates a work so indigenous to its culture it is impenetrable and boring as yesterday's garbage to listen to. It's more an oratorio than a piece of "music theater," and with its supposed use of the conversational styles and musical songs, tropes, and themes of the time, it is as stodgy as Andre Breton condemning rock & roll as decadent. Boehmer goes to great pains -- he always does -- to tell the singers to forget everything they know about traditional singing. They must have, because there is precious little of it here. It's mostly spoken rant and orchestral bombast making it an entirely academic "avant-garde" work that could only have come from European men who believe that Pierre Boulez and Luigi Nono are still the young lions of musical composition -- Nono is borrowed from here extensively, and not in a flattering way. Still, much of this would be redeemable if Boehmer didn't completely murder three of Ho Chi Minh's most beautiful poems with a putrid, beat-you-over-the-head-until-your-brains-spill-from-your-ears orchestral score that sought more to condemn America's involvement in Vietnam -- we beat you to it, Konrad -- than pay homage to Minh as the great poet he was. If this is art, if this is social commentary addressed by music, please, please give me an old scratchy copy of the Who's Tommy to listen to -- it's still more relevant and important than this drivel.

blue highlight denotes track pick