Opening Concert

Ensemble Modern Orchestra
Vimbayi Kaziboni, conductor
Heiner Goebbels: “A House of Call” (WP)

Once again, the innovative force of the Ensemble Modern Orchestra is united with Heiner Goebbels’ genre-crossing composition style: On the occasion of the Beethoven Year, Heiner Goebbels has written a new work to be premiered at Musikfest Berlin 2021.

Earliest version of the “Roderich O’Connor” piece from “Finnegans Wake”

Earliest version of the “Roderich O’Connor” piece from “Finnegans Wake”. In: David Hayman (ed.), “A First Draft Version of Finnegans Wake”, Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1963, p. 206

Past Dates

“A House of Call. My Imaginary Notebook” is a four-part cycle of compositions in which the Ensemble Modern Orchestra will respond to voices that Heiner Goebbels has recorded in an imaginary notebook. Voices that he came across in projects or archives, on his travels and during encounters – sometimes coincidentally – and that now return to ‘set the tone’ with sounds and languages of their own: dialogues, invocations, prayers, evocations, appeals, speech acts or songs. These distinctive, ‘peculiar’ voices will have their say on a concert stage now – most of them for the first time. The musicians respond to them, individually or as a collective, like the choir in a responsory: they comment, interrupt, encourage and disagree.

“a prolongued visit to a house of call” – this is a line to be found on page 41 of James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake”, not far from the onomatopoetic ‘roaratorio’ which was to give John Cage’s audio piece its name. This audio piece has had a lasting influence on me, because, in the midst of a stream of many voices, John Cage reads through the novel’s 628 pages, mesostic by mesostic – like a ‘sung writing of language’. This is how Roland Barthes described the grittiness (grain) of the voice, and it is this grain – le grain de la voix – that the voices gathered in my imaginary notebook have in common.
Heiner Goebbels 2020

An important feature of many of Heiner Goebbels’ works is the attraction of absent, acousmatic voices. This can be observed on his first single “Berlin Kudamm 12.4.81” (1981), in the “Chaconne / Kantorloops” from “Surrogate Cities” (1994), the performance “Stifters Dinge” (2007), the sound installation “Genko An” (2008ff.) or his audio pieces. In “A House of Call”, the voices will become the protagonists of an entire concert for the first time.

Concert Programme

Heiner Goebbels (*1952)
A House of Call. My Imaginary Notebook (2020)

Heiner Goebbels and Diego Ramos Rodríguez instrumentation

Commissioned by Ensemble Modern, Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin, Kölner Philharmonie, beuys2021, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, musica viva / Bayerischer Rundfunk, Wien Modern, and Casa da Música Porto.

World premiere


Ensemble Modern Orchestra
Vimbayi Kaziboni conductor
Heiner Goebbels and Hendrik Borowski lighting control
Norbert Ommer sound direction
Felix Dreher and Volker Bernhard sound engineering

A project within the framework of BTHVN 2020. Funded by the Minister of State for Culture and the Media.

Logo BTHVN 2020

A Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin event