Eraritjaritjaka, Musée des Phrases

7.8/05 > 20:30
FR > subtitles: NL - 1h25

Eraritjaritjaka - an old aboriginal word meaning 'longing for something that is lost' - features the words of Nobel prize-winner Elias Canetti. This production - a collection of his thoughts and separate notes - aims to translate the writer's assertive intelligence and his short and scathing critique for the stage. Director and composer Heiner Goebbels brings out the musical phrasing of his writings, drawing from the contemporary repertoire of string quartets to assemble a thrilling score for strings and voices. Actor André Wilms lends his voice to Canetti's profound words.

Based on texts:

Elias Canetti

Concept, direction and music:

Heiner Goebbels


André Wilms & The Mondriaan Quartet, Amsterdam

The Mondriaan Quartet, Amsterdam:

Jan Erik van Regteren Altena (violin), Edwin Blankenstijn (violin), Annette Bergman (viola), Eduard van Regteren Altena (cello)

and alternately:

Heleen Hulst (violin & viola)

Child's voice:

Jérémy Carruba

Woman's voice:

Florence von Gerkan

Set and Lighting Designer:

Klaus Grünberg

Live video:

Bruno Deville

Costume Designer:

Florence von Gerkan

Sound Designer:

Willi Bopp

Dramaturg and Assistant Direction:

Stephan Buchberger

Assistant Set Designer:

Anne Niederstadt

Stage Manager:

Nicolas Bridel


Roby Carruba


Bastien Genoux


Fabio Gaggetta, Pierre Kissling, Nicolas Pilet


Thierry Arnold, Guillaume Rossier

Tour Manager:

Céline Gaudier


Dmitri Schostakowitsch, String quartet Nr 8, op. 110 (1960), I. Largo, II. Allegro molto

Alexeij Mossolov, String quartet Nr 1, op. 24 (1926), Andante non troppo

Giacinto Scelsi, String quartet Nr 1 (1944), Quasi lento

John Oswald, Spectre (1990)

Vassily Lobanov, String Quartet Nr 4, op. 49 (1987/1988), Adagio / Presto

Gavin Bryars, String quartet Nr 1 (1985)

Maurice Ravel, String quartet (1902/1903) I. Allegro moderato - Très doux, II. Assez vif - Très rythmé, III. Très lent, IV. Vif et agité

George Crumb, Black Angels (1970), Thirteen Images from the Dark Land: I. DEPARTURE: 1 Threnody 1: night of the electric insects, 2 Sound of bones and flutes, 3 Lost bells, 4 Devil-music

Johann Sebastian Bach, Die Kunst der Füge, Contrapunctus 9, BWV 1080/9

Heiner Goebbels, Eraritjaritjaka (2004)

Adaptation texts:

Arche éditeur


Le Territoire de l'homme

Réflexions 1942 - 1972

Translated by: Armel Guerne

Editions Albin Michel, Paris 1978

Le Coeur secret de l'horloge

Réflexions 1973 - 1985

Translated by: Walter Weideli

Editions Albin Michel, Paris 1989

Le Collier de mouches


Translated by: Walter Weideli

Editions Albin Michel, Paris 1995

Notes de Hampstead, 1954 - 1971

Translated by: Walter Weideli

Editions Albin Michel, Paris 1997

Aufzeichnungen 1973 - 1984

Carl Hanser Verlag, München 1999

Aufzeichnungen 1992 - 1993

Carl Hanser Verlag, München 1996


Translated by: Paule Arthex

Editions Gallimard, Paris 1968

Masse et puissance

Translated by: Robert Rovini

Editions Gallimard, Paris1966

Delegate producer:

Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne E.T.E.


schauspielfrankfurt, spielzeiteuropa I Berliner Festspiele, Pour-cent culturel Migros, T&M - Odéon Théâtre de l'Europe (Paris), Wiener Festwochen

With the support of:

the Landis & Gyr Foundation, Culture 2000 of the European Union (UTE, Réseau Varèse), Pro Helvetia


Kaaitheater, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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Eraritjaritjaka is an archaic poetic expression in Arunta, which means: “Full of the desire for something lost”

Elias Canetti

With Eraritjaritjaka, Heiner Goebbels invites us to an enigmatic, richly imaged and intensely musical production, whose texts are based essentially on short notes written by Elias Canetti, through which the actor, André Wilms, confronts music, the audience and himself. Canetti has left nothing to chance, keeping in his sights the production’s music and language, our habits and vanities, cities, the media, the animal kingdom and above all the omnipresent horrific power of order.

In addition to Jean-Sébastien Bach’s Art of the Fugue, the repertoire is principally made up of 20th Century string quartet music ranging from such composers as Ravel and Shostakovich to Gavin Bryars and Georg Crumb; interpreted with virtuosity and in ever-changing scenes by the Mondriaan Quartet.

Much of the sustained effect of the exciting and always unpredictable interpretation of this production, as of previous musicals such as Hashirigaki and Landscape with distant relatives, is due to Klaus Grünberg’s lighting and stage effects, as well as to the young Belgian producer Bruno Deville’s live videos, which change at each performance, and enable us to get even closer to the intense acting of cinema and theatre actor, André Wilms, while at the same time causing us to doubt whether we are in a play or a film, and confusing us about where exactly fiction ends and reality begins.

Eraritjaritjaka can be considered as the third and last part of a trilogy, developed by Heiner Goebbels together with André Wilms, whose first two parts were Or the hapless landing (1993, presented at the KunstenFESTIVALdesArts 1994) and Max Black (1998). As different as these productions are from each other, all three share the theme of the way in which individuals appropriate existence through the notes and diary entries of the most varied selection of authors.

The music

Having taken the decision to use a string quartet for the music, interest in Shostakovich’s quatuors was one of the first impulses of our quest. His eighth string quartet from 1960 is remarkable in more than one way. Firstly, it is dedicated to “the memory of victims of fascism and war”. This has often, and certainly correctly, been interpreted as homage to the victims of Stalinism, among whom Shostakovich counted himself.

Secondly, this quartet is clearly autobiographical. The four notes D-eS-C-H /re-mi-do-si), Dmitri Shostakovich’s initials, which open the first movement, are almost continuously present throughout the five movements of the quatuor, along with a whole series of self-quotations. Shostakovich also refers to musical “ancestors”: D-eS-C-H is obviously a salute to B-A-C-H, but may also be read as a reminder of the tetratonic theme underlying Beethoven’s later quatuors.

This constellation between reaction to and reflection of politico-social situations on the one hand and self-contemplation accompanied by continual reference to the great masters on the other, is certainly not dissimilar to the character of Canetti’s texts. Shostakovich’s music – also that of the Allegretto of the 12th quatuor – is therefore so dense and complete in itself that it becomes a self-sustaining concert within Eraritjaritjaka.

The quatuors by Mossolov (1926) and Lobanov (1987/88), i.e. marking the beginning and almost the end of the Soviet Union, are part of the same context. Alexeij Mossolov, a fervent admirer of Lenin and the Russian revolution, owed his fame mostly to his composition The Foundry (1926). He retired into a form of interior emigration at the end of the 1930’s, following frequent confrontation with the Association of Soviet Composers and his final exclusion from this body. Abandoning composition almost completely, he devoted himself to research on folk music.

Vassily Lobanov, a student under Alfred Schnittke, moved to Germany in 1990 where he is now a teacher of composition in Cologne. It happened that he named his fourth quartet the 16th Shostakovich Quartet. He also works with stylistic references, for example with a Renaissance choir.

The pieces by Scelsi, Bryars and Kurtag each have a different structural quality. Scelsi’s first quartet starts with a structurally homophonic recitative based on chords. Bryars creates a light, liberated acoustic plane with a calm, gliding pulsation. Bryars’ quartet is dedicated to a precise moment of the year 1906 when the three dancers, Mata Hari, Isidora Duncan and Maud Allan, were staying in three different hotels in Vienna, unaware of each other’s presence. John Oswald’s Spectre was composed 1990 for the Kronos Quartet and uses, what Oswald calls “swarms”, the multiple overdubbing of a single sound source a very large number of times, her works with a terrifically dense number of strings which sound simultaneously.

Ravel’s string quartet, played almost in its entirety with four movements, is used as a soundtrack for the interior scenes. Ravel’s trio with piano had a similar function in Max Black: when the protagonist’s stream of thought stops, the music reveals, to a certain extent, the complex and hidden emotions which underlie uninterrupted thought.

Just before the fourth movement, called “vif et agité”, Eraritjaritjaka by Heiner Goebbels works with some motifs of the interrupted third movement.

The Black Angels, created in 1970 by Georg Crumb refers to the Vietnam War (Thirteen Images from a Dark Land) and echoes Shostakovich’s viewpoint, but from a western perspective. Once again, there are references to the great masters – among them Gesualdo, Schubert, the Dies Irae.

Eraritjaritjaka concludes with a counterpoint from the Art of the Fugue by J.S. Bach.

The B-A-C-H theme is not directly apparent in this fugue but plays a hidden role as always in The Art of the Fugue.

Elias Canetti, The Voices of Marrakesh

In order to feel at home in a strange city you need to have a secluded room to which you have a certain title and in which you can be alone when the tumult of new and incomprehensible voices becomes too great. The room should be quiet; no one should see you make your escape there, no one see you leave. The best thing is when you can slip into a cul-de-sac, stop at a door to which you have the key in your pocket, unlock it without a soul hearing.

You step into the coolness of the house and close the door behind you. It is dark, and for a moment you can see nothing. You are like one of the blind men in the squares and passages you have just left. But you very soon have your eyesight back. You see a stone stairway leading to the first floor, and at the top you find a cat. The cat embodies the noiselessness you have been longing for. You are grateful to it for being alive: a quiet life is possible, then. It is fed without crying “Allah!” a thousand times a day. It is not mutilated, nor is it obliged to bow to a terrible fate; Cruel it may be, but id does not say so.

You walk up and down and breathe in the silence. What has become of the atrocious bustle? The harsh light and the harsh sounds? The hundreds upon hundreds of faces? Few windows in these houses look onto the street, sometimes none at all; everything opens onto the courtyard, and this lies open to the sky. Only through the courtyard do you retain a mellow, tempered link with the world around you.

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