brigitta muntendorf

Ballet for Eleven

stage work for 11 musicians, video projections and fixed media

Music & Artistic Direction
Brigitta Muntendorf

Premiered by
Ensemble Modern / Bas Wiegers

Donaueschinger Musiktage 2018

Live Video
Warped Type

Sita Messer

fl, ob, cl/B-cl, bsn/C-bsn, hrn, trp, trb, vl, vla, vc, db

30 min

Technical Setup
Sound system, amplification of the instruments, 1 projector 10.000 ANSI/Lumen, 3 projectors 4000 ANSI/Lumen, screen 16:9 about 5m width

In Ballet for Eleven, the roles are not distributed at the beginning. There’re 11 musicians and a conductor in costumes and with projection screens hung around them reminiscent of triadic ballet in the audience space, they are blind – and a performance on stage can only take place if people can be found to accompany these beings to their position. And if an audience does not agree to this, then no stage presence will take place and 25 minutes of music and scene will not happen. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, on the contrary, this would then be a piece about an audience that doesn’t accompany its musicians.”

program notes

From nine to eleven we set up the set, the stage.
Lights, costume, makeup, props, background, floor, the image. Next to it, laptop, interface, microphones, the sound.
A place is created, an atmosphere of creation and at the same time a mystified scene with the view through the camera. The spectators are me, my team. These spectators do not expect anything. They are here because they want something. With only an inkling of what might happen and a certainty that something will emerge. Sunday morning, June tenth two thousand and eighteen.

Eleven fifteen to twelve o’clock flute, for me Dietmar, for my team Dietmar Wiesner, 174 cm, please come in black, long sleeves and trouser legs, costume for above will be provided. Twelve o’clock to twelve forty-five Sava, Sava Stoianov, 180 cm, trumpet (also small trumpet), twelve forty-five to thirteen thirty Saar Berger, horn, 180 cm. The half hour lunch break is only a formality, because when at fourteen o’clock Berk, trombone, at the time of planning still N.N., appears Trumpet, Sava, is already half an hour with glued eyes in waiting position, blind, deprived of a sense. I take him by the hand – yes, it’s okay -, we enter the stage, positioning, instructions from make-up, cameraman, one step forward, half a step back, scene instructions follow from me. A person, a prop, a place, the sound of the fan as an ostinato. Entering musicians in the background, there is laughter, photos are taken, there are many question marks, but no time to answer questions. It is produced here, we have forgotten the slot for questions. But I don’t notice this until I’m sitting on the train back to Cologne at twenty-two thirty with my hard drives full.

While silent scenes are being shot in the front, the next person is in makeup. When the scenes are finished shooting, the musicians – are they musicians right now? Who are these people anyway? Who is composing whom? – the next moment sitting at a table, exposed to the attempt to sing in falsetto for the next fifteen minutes. High, fragile, in a language that does not exist, and then to imitate with sounds what has just been created vocally. High and fragile sounds sometimes high and fragile, then low and brisk, loud or soft, louder, too loud, just right, yes, that’s good given the initial idea. But the other is good given the situation.
Why are you looking at the notes? They’re for flute, I say.
I read the instructions, not the notes, I need a text if I am to invent a language, you say. Says the musician, says the human being, the performer.
I realize. Who actually needs what here? Who functions, who acts, who projects and who realizes at all?

Underlying the recordings and the piece is the idea that the body is understood as a projection surface. Projections are unavoidable, are used, for example, in political terms to create images of the enemy or “lovebrands”, slow down the escape from traditional social realities and prevent us from seeing what is actually present in us. Projections literally make us immobile, put us in a corset, which, by the way, is gender-neutral (because it is gender-independent). At the same time, projections are very valuable, after all, they helped to overcome a great many boundaries that day – I write in an email to EM the next day. But nothing was actually overcome, I realize while colorgrading. The attempt to live, to perform in these projections and in this corset, does not thematize overcoming (the instrument, the role, the sound), but the attempt of a natural existence, no matter how aberrant the conditions turn out to be.

We sweep up the confetti from the stage floor, the props remain there, – dissolved stage situation -, are transported later with the instruments, for the piece. For the play? Everything there, everyone gone, lights off, door closed, after twelve hours the play is over at twenty-one o’clock.


nmz/Gerhard Koch/11-2018

“The other audiovisual highlight was Brigitta Muntendorf’s “Ballet for Eleven”, which intertwines contrary worlds in a different way: mythical video forest walk, couple procession, surreal metamorphoses of human and instrument, the Ensemble Modern as a horror gang of white-bearded clones. Bodies, sounds, actions and images appear here permanently crossed: to the colorful “Black Mass”. The slightly morbid-buffonesque live part seems a little more resistant to the immensely perfectionist Aperghis aesthetic. Nevertheless, there is by no means the impression of a possibly still German-romantic, Wagnerian overwhelmingly identification-hungry espressivo aesthetic.”

Bayrischer Rundfunk / “Mehr Mut” / Kristin Amme 

„In Brigitta Muntendorf’s “Ballet for Eleven” technology was an important vehicle: Disturbing to the point of Schlingensief-like, the Ensemble Modern offered scenic theater – imaginative and overtaxing in a positive sense, accompanied by sounds from the here and now.“