Kagel: Playback Play

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COMPOSERS: Kagel
LABELS: Winter & Winter
WORKS: Playback Play
PERFORMER: Ensemble MusikFabrik NRW/Mauricio Kagel
CATALOGUE NO: 910 059-2
In spring 1996 Mauricio Kagel paid a visit to a musical trade fair, where all the latest high-tech hardware and instrumental innovations were on show. With its cacophony of sound images as all of the manufacturers’ stands clamoured for attention it became the kind of accidental theatrical experience that has always fascinated him, and Playback Play was his musical impression of what he heard and witnessed – not a faithful reproduction of the event, as he says, but ‘a kaleidoscope in which, as really happens at such a music fair, different situations unexpectedly succeed one another and coexist simultaneously’.

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As always with Kagel, though, the result is much more than that. As the different snatches of music move in and out of focus, overlaid with loudspeaker announcements, and the riffs from synthesizers and drum machines, it becomes a cultural commentary on high and low musical culture and the driving force of commercialism. And it is put together with a deadly accurate, deadpan wit – at the opening for instance, the instrumentalists of Ensemble Musikfabrik are paged by loudspeaker, to which each responds with a little solo; later they are summoned to give a ‘performance’ and respond with a broken-backed, incoherent march. The lowest common musical denominator, Kagel suggests, is what really sells at these events. Andrew Clements