brigitta muntendorf

Trilogy for two pianos

Premiere of the whole cycle
Kunstfestspiele Herrenhausen 2018

Written for

GrauSchumacher Piano Dup

Text & Voices
Brigitta Muntendorf & Javier Salinas

45 minutes

Technical equipment (rough list)
4 contact microphones (inside piano, body, pedal) / 1 mini-mic for the hand / stereo mic piano for each player/piano; mixing desk and sound system with 6-8 speakers, sub and speakers within the audience, laptop with Max MSP, 2 midi controller (2 octaves)


for two pianos, live-electronics and tape

CD & Blu-ray of Trilogy for two pianos

Comprises the CD and an additional Blu-ray (including the three films of Theater des Nachhalls with both stereo and 5.1 multichannel audio in 24 bit, 48 kHz), a 52-page bilingual booklet (EN, DE) with articles by Dirk Wieschollek, an interview with Brigitta Muntendorf, Andreas Grau and Götz Schumacher, as well as two concertina-fold inserts featuring photos of the composer and film stills of the performers.

Winner of the German Record Critics’ Award 2023 

Trilogy for two pianos is the winner of the German Record Critics’ Award 2023 in the category Contemporary Classical Music.


Listen to Key of Presence

Press Review

SWR2 (Southwest Broadcasting) / Susanne Benda

FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) / Lotte Thaler

Kapital / Michal Lipták: Súčasná vážna hudba: Elektronické živočíchy

Live documentation: Key of Presence

Live documentation: Key of Absence

program notes

I wish this sounded like it already doesn’t.”

The trilogy for two grand pianos, live electronics and feed, consisting of the three pieces ,Key of Presence’, KreisIncrease” and ,Key of Absence’ is a 45-minute piano program that attempts to approach paradoxes of presence, absence and presence through music.

,Key of Presence’ was created in 2014. The development of an artistic idea in a vacuum, an empty and purist space that gradually takes on the shape of the idea was unthinkable in ,Key of Presence’. Instead, there was only a revolving door to a present in which new encounters, past, present and future were sluiced in and out on a daily basis. The present ran circles around me in the form of transience, reminding me as I composed that I was working on something that was the epitome of transience. The thought process of ,Key of Presence’ is an extra-musical one, so I am just writing about something that accompanied the composition, but is not the composition. It can’t “be” in this sense either, it can only embody an ever-transforming idea.

It is the same with the poem “Something is coming my friend” by the Spanish writer Javier Salinas, who recorded it for Key of Presence. One of the many poems that the well-known former avant-garde writer has been posting on Facebook every day for the past four years, in a language foreign to him he points to the one among many, an accent that points to the non-original and at the same time to that which daily passes away, perishes, cannot be heard.
An auditory fingerprint of transience – a phenomenon for which there is no place in today’s society, although we are confronted with it every day. Instead, we are offered mechanisms to ignore transience: with huge data warehouses and clouds, social freezing we are given permanence and security, with the creativity of the beauty industry, with pink fillets in white packaging dying is made invisible – the present always survives. Music is transient, a continuum of disappearance, and its imprint is the resonance, the reverberation. Nothing more, nothing less.
Two pianists trigger resonances and, together with the feed and live electronics, map different reverberation spaces, proximity and distance to what is happening. As live players they counteract the disappearance with all their possibilities and at the same time they are the disappearance itself.


,KreisIncrease’ stands as the latest composition in the middle of the trilogy for two pianos. Key of Absence’ was originally intended to occupy this position and, as a silence of absence set in sound
of absence, celebrating the emptiness. The emptiness that occurs when the inexorable flow of transience puts the pianists’ slogging away at their material in ,Key of Presence’ into a bird’s eye view. The silence in which energetic urgency simply fizzles out in favor of an undirected field of possibility. But ‘Key of Absence’ took a different course – too outrageous to me was the idea that “future” and “memory” are nothing more than constructs that prevent us from accepting our existence as fleeting and simultaneous.
Now ,KreisIncrease’ is second in the trilogy and relates to a piece I love very much: ,Stille und Umkehr’ by Bernd Alois Zimmermann. I didn’t want to quote this existing piece of music, deconstruct it or put original meanings into a new context. Although I lean on the harmonics, on the parallel existence of different speeds, on the circling recurrence of impulses – and thus on the most important parameters – my question is to what extent it is possible to translate the “meaningfulness” of Zimmermann’s “resonances of sound and sound production in us” (Jean Luc Nancy) with my own compositional reference systems. And to what extent it is possible to use two pianos, two humans
and electronics as an orchestral apparatus, in which all sounds are inherent as a matter of course and do not have to be produced first by pianistic performance. (Here it thus returns, the silence and the undirected fields of possibility, and now, at this point, I can – with Zimmermann’s help – also engage with them).
While in ,Key of Presence’ and ,Key of Absence’ each player embodies his own melody,

While in ,Key of Presence‘ and ,Key of Absence‘ each player embodies his own melody, in ,KreisIncrease‘ they find themselves in the apparent banality of individual actions. Through the complementary addition in the literal sense, the stage stereo, the sonority is first formed – the failure of precision, chance and daily form, flow or blackout are realities, they are the field of tension between the musicians and the sounds they produce. ,KreisIncrease’ thematizes the possibility of isolation of the constantly circling, understands Zimmermann’s ostinato as the voice that is not heard and not redeemed. At the same time, the relationship of the elements to each other and the relationship as a source of dynamics between the pianists is present in the musical events at all times.
From these thoughts of a meaningful interpretation of ,silence and conversion’ the title ,KreisIncrease’ was born. One could also say, in search of something that could call itself the real, ,KreisIncrease’ is the unmasked – in its complete staging.

Key of Absence

In ‘Key of Absence’, the last part of the trilogy, the ‘logos’ (word, speech) contained in the term trilogy forms the formal framework for an aesthetic examination of the meaning of the past with regard to music, musical tradition and also performance. Through the spatially mirror-inverted interlocking of both pianos, the instrumental bodies in the composition are conceived as a long table at which the players sit opposite each other.
Dialogues are formed through and about music, but the players always seem to disappear into their own cosmos in spiral-like loops or virtuosic rhythmic patterns. Confronting the players with quotations from the past forms a continuous attempt to create presence.