Wunsch-Konzert, 15. Oktober, 2033
Under the heading ‘… amúgy játszunk’, a memorial concert is about to begin in the main auditorium of the Karl Marx World Arts Center, Beijing. A whole section of the audience space has been reserved for the composers whose music will be played. Helmut Lachenmann, nearing the age of ninety-eight, is probably the oldest present. Others of his generation are represented by sheets of glass placed on their seats, showing them, by way of the worldwide mirror web, at home and waiting now, as we are, for the event to start.
Nobody knows how long it will go on. The hundred and six composers invited to contribute were asked to each send something for a solo performer lasting precisely a hundred and six seconds, for it was at the age of a hundred and six—indeed, on his hundred and sixth birthday—that György Kurtág had left this world. The planners have also built into the schedule breaks of a hundred and six seconds between pieces, again precisely, the audience being asked to maintain strict silence during these breaks. There will be no other intervals.
The original expectation, therefore, was that the concert would run for six hours, twelve minutes and forty-six seconds. However, there are composers who, though not among those invited, have sent in pieces to the organising committee, who, so it is said, have accepted any that fulfilled the requirement of playing for a hundred and six seconds precisely. This much was generally known, but nobody knew—perhaps not even the committee members themselves—just how many of these items have been added to the schedule. In the new post-2031 world, the imperatives of equality and those of discernment are still fighting it out.
There is some unease in the audience as it begins to take its seats, along with the inevitable excitement aroused by the prospect of encountering new pieces by—besides Lachenmann—Rendão, Vascos, Naidoo, Saunders, Shchelmikova, Li, Lang (but which one?), Avoka, Momitsu, Balogh, Lubako, Giuranti, Reiss, Reich, and so many more, Everyone in the audience, chosen at random, is aware of the responsibility they have taken on, to remember as much as they can of this extraordinary event and convey it back to people around the world waiting in their streets and villages. Since the abandonment of electronic devices, powers of memory have notably sharpened generally.
Nobody knows what to expect. The programme gives the composers’ names, but these do not indicate too much. Many of them stand for consortia, whose members will be involved to varying extents (if at all) in any particular project. There is also the practice whereby a composer will write something in the manner of another composer and issue the piece under his or her name. Even where the piece is indeed written by the person stated, nothing, of course, may be assumed, since the new aesthetic dispensation has proved for all artists not a restriction but an embrace, enabling them to find possibilities they had not anticipated.
One name, though, is missing. Isabelle Faust comes on to the platform to widespread expressions of surprise and strong approval, which then give way to sprinklings of laughter and applause as she begins to play a favourite piece by the late master being honoured.
Of course. This is how it has to begin.