When Cologne based composer Marcus Schmickler performed ’Could You Patent the Sun?’ close to the banks of the river Rhine in Monheim on Wednesday, July 1st, 2020, he wrote music history. Not only was this the world premiere of his latest sound composition, it was also the very first public performance of the Monheim Triennale (and the only one in that specific year as we had to postpone all other events due to the pandemic). That day he collaborated with Okkyung Lee and Jennifer Walshe, who both send in music sequences digitally, and with four brass musicians from the Ensemble Musikfabrik positioned in front of the Kulturraffinerie K714.
’Could You Patent the Sun?’ was a 20-minute sneak peek of his composition ‘Entwurf einer Rheinlandschaft’ (Draft of a Rhine Landscape) which is to be staged in full length at the Monheim Triennale in 2022.
During an earlier visit to his electroacoustic studio in Cologne, Schmickler shared some insights about the composition, commissioned by the Monheim Triennale and inspired by the famous quote by the American immunologist Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio vaccine in the 1950s. When asked whether he had applied for a patent for his polio vaccine, he replied: ‘There is no patent. Could you patent the Sun?’
“Entwurf einer Rheinlandschaft” (Design of a Rhine landscape) will be the opening night of the Monheim Triennale on June 22nd 2022“, Marcus Schmickler recounts. ‘Wait a second, opening night, wasn´t there something? Opening night of “Der Ring des Nibelungen”. And what is “Der Ring” all about? The gold… and the fact that you have to give up love and humanity if you want to get the gold. To which degree can I follow this up? How interesting is the topos for the audience in Monheim? How much am I as a composer interested in it? Do I want to deal with the topic Wagner? It is obvious to me that “Rheingold” is one of the first drone tunes ever as the overture of “Rheingold” is this natural overtone series.’
From Wagner and “Rheingold” it is but just one quick step into our times and the current state of questions in a world in crisis mode. ‘We all ask ourselves about our economic situation. We all ask ourselves what influence power and money have on our lives, We all reflect about the interplay between the global players and local manufacturers and the impacts of those on work in general. We all have to constantly question our own role within these processes, especially right now as we are living in times of economic and political changes.’
All quotes are from the Artist Talk with Thomas Venker as part of the 2021 Prequel issue.