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Elegies & Litanies - Keir Neuringer

by Ensemble Klang with Keir Neuringer

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there are no roads, there is no way there is no conveyance of waste, we live in shit there are no safe passages over rivers, no bridges to nowhere, and they are broken there is no solace, sadness is pathology there is no relief, discomfort is criminal there are no agreements, safety is fleeting first do no harm is a polemic, to every notion its opposite to speak of racism oppresses the racist to speak of misogyny oppresses men to speak of keeping children safe unfairly targets those who would do them harm there is no freedom, yet there is no security there is no water, there is no thirst there is ambition, yet there is no thirst there is fear, there is no love there is hunger, there is the stockpiling of food there is obscene wealth noted by those hungry at its gates there are larders with doors that open only inward there are hospitals with doors that open only outward there are schools with doors that open only downward there is History, there are historians who lie there were books, there is sawdust there were forests, there is sawdust there were forests, there are barren hillsides there were forests, there are dead rivers there are no forests, there is no life in no forests there were lions in Europe there were bison across North America there were aural maps before Australia there was Arctic summer ice Hiroshima was a city of only children Nagasaki was a city of only saints in Warsaw only poets lived cures for cancer were burned in the burning of Dresden the Congolese hands King Leopold cut off were the hands of great painters John Africa knew how to preserve pristine water Sodom and Gomorrah is a prediction The Book of Job is a pyramid scheme there were people, there are prisoner numbers there were people, there are tax identification numbers there is no tax identification number, there is no person there is no employment, there is no person there is no person, there is no person without a home the house is unoccupied yet there is no room in it for you the seat is unoccupied yet you do not have a ticket to sit there the seat is occupied, you may not travel there is no passport, you may not go through there is a list of those who may not go through, you may go through there is a list of those in conflict with those who keep the list, you are not on the list there is the presence of Security personnel, there is no security there is the absence of freedom, there is the obsession with the presence of freedom there are prisons in the absence of schools there are salesmen in the absence of physicians there is talk in the absence of discourse in the absence of music there is noise
all the words — I call upon all the words — all tongues — all languages — I call upon all the words — all the numbers — I call upon mathematics — astronomy & philosophy — I call upon science — the learning — I call with my voice — upon all tongues — in all tongues — all language, mathematics, numbers — all the numbers — all the words — the pressures of presence — the presence of pressure — the words — all the borders the borders & the boundaries — the borders & the boundaries — territories — the theories, the discoveries — all learning — the grim meanings — I call with conviction — in contention — against convention — I call upon auspicious prospects — augurs of decay — the grim meanings — I call upon exuberance — rapture & disgrace — shame & the absence of shame — ruler subject theory object — ruler subject theory object — all the knowing — the predictions — the unmaking, the undoing defeat downfall & ruin — I call upon the ruin — the towns — the river — the desert — the border, the boundary — geography & taxonomy — the histories & inventions — the facts, the figures, the fraud — customs or kindness — enforcement or empathy — the towns, the river, the desert — the road — the bloody path — the crossing — the camp — the confinement — the flight — the flight, the fear — the reckoning the exclusion — the justification — the demarcation — the confinement — the boundary — the border, the boundary — the meridian, the margin — the threshold — the open wound — the frontier — the flight — the fear — the metaphor — the learning — the gossip rumor & lies — facts, fictions, & fraud — shame & the absence of shame — customs or kindness — enforcement or empathy — patrol power pain perception & protest oppression — the presence of pressure — the absence of shame — rapture & disgrace — augurs of decay — demarcation — defeat downfall & ruin — facts & fictions — histories & conceits — the borders the boundaries — the borders & the boundaries — the states & statelessness — presence of oppression — the unmaking & the downfall — the catastrophes & the ruin — the histories & inventions — the interventions — aspirations asphyxiation — astronomy & prophecy — ways & wars demarcations — deceits limits & lines — the edge the urge the periphery — the frontiers the contours — confusion crossing confinement — concern control concern chaos concern continuity concern cancer conflict — conflict conflict conflict — the catastrophe — the betrayal the devastation the waste the wasteland — the betrayal the devastation the waste the wasteland the land — the land the forests the farms — farms food refuge shelter reprieve — river desert town — snake — the knowing the unknowing the undoing the unmaking — grinding grinding ground underground — the implosion the explosions — all the psychology — all the laws — the religion gods demons poetry children monsters monuments saints & burials — gods demons children — the betrayals — saints & symbols — all the saints & symbols — monuments & burials — demons gods & children — wars & progress — pressures of presence — exclusion neglect despair — the catastrophe — uncertainty solidarity affinity & extinction — demons gods & children — the extinctions — the implosions & explosives — distinction & similarity — territories — the ground grinding grinding underground — all the similarities — the kinship the friendship our ways & wars — economy & explosions — the borders the boundaries — territories implosions margins lines limits demarcation — demonstrations & denomination — domination dominion stone & soil — stone sand soil sun — collapse — weakness failure grief & solace — towns river desert demarcation — stone sand soil — oasis & dystopia — the borders the boundaries — dominion empire & statelessness — poverty & property — prosperity & procedure — process & presence — perimeter & oppression — fact & fiction & friction & resistance — myth meaning violence & disease the grim meanings & disease — prosperity & disease — fables gods & poetry — children & sorrow — contours of captivity & confinement — presence of ancestors — stone sand soil & sun — river desert town snake — people & torture — all the people — the learning — all the people or torture — the torture & people & torture or torture or territory or frontiers — threshold taxonomy & geography — litanies of cities & litanies of cities — the friction & the fear — periphery procedure & pain — fables facts & fraud — bodies — astronomy stars — the stars & stars or galaxies — ambition & ancestors — implosions & progress — explosives & symbols — & saints — burials & memorials — all the devastation — the disappearance the extinction — presence of neglect — all fiction all fear all conceit — or friction or confusion — customs or kindness — enforcement or empathy — outpost — open wound — the unmaking the undoing — the downfall defeat & ruin — downfall defeat & ruin — the catastrophe the catastrophe — the unknowing the knowing — the learning — hours hours — the law & the body — evolution & astronomy — the submission & the escape — shame & the absence of shame — the distance the danger — distance danger outpost outcast stranger friend sacrifice — the sacrifice — the scorn — the hostility — the captivity — the facts or the friction — trust — pressures of presence — or exclusion — the symbols — the radiance ancestors — maps — bodies — stars — stars stone sand soil gravity — grinding grinding ground underground — maps of ancestors — stars of ancestors — the light & the cities — litanies of cities — hours hours hours — the power & pleasure & patience & power — the pleasure & privilege — the power & pride — protest & pain — the pride the pride — the power & conceit or conceit — or presence — the pain — the wisdom the histories — the grim meanings — the history — auspicious prospects — augurs of decay — the memory — hours hours hours — gods & children — solace & extermination — distinction — extinction — harm & aspiration — asphyxiation & empire — succor & suffocation — the borders & the boundaries — the catastrophes & the ruin — failure or the collapse — the ways — conflict captivity & collapse — the ways & wars the living & dying — the recklessness — the folly the friction the wisdom — the betrayal & the sleep — the stupor — the torture & the cities — the torture — the people — the cities — the cities — the refuge — the culture — the cataclysm or crest or crumble or plateau — the living & dying — the demons the children & the harvest — the food the forests — the absence or uprising — the margins the threshold — or adversity & harmony — adversity & harmony adversity & harm — the harm the solace the iniquity — the progress — the procedure — the oppression — the distinction — the difference — distance & danger — presence & stupor — the stone sand soil — river desert & towns — the sacrifice — friction & fraud — maps of ancestors — the oppression — astronomy — philosophy — periphery — hostility — the hostility hours & hours — the decline — the flight the fear — the proliferation — the theft — the procedure — the place — property & poverty — proliferation & procedure — the corruption or kingdoms & kinship — or customs or kindness — contour & confinement — ruler subject theory object — ruler subject theory object — reckoning & demarcation — content context context conflict — the shock — the betrayal — the memory — the meaning the meaning — the histories — the grim meanings — the confessions conceits confessions — the confessions conflict conceits — the contentions the convictions — the captivity — the captives — the freedom — the fable — the torture — the cities — the torture — the cities — the betrayal — the freedom — the deceit — the progress — the solace — the periphery the ways & wars — the reckoning — hours & hours — children & explosions — kingdoms & kinship — kinship & demons — unity & torture — the stupor — the confusion — the open wound — dreams & denial — fables & fictions — denial or deceit & descent — & descent — & descent — & descent — the deceit & sleep or stupor — the astronomy — the solace — the iniquity the freedom or meaning — the grim meanings — interstellar meanings — maps of ancestors — astronomy & mathematics — all the numbers — maps & ancestors — bodies — blood — devastation — all our devastation — all of our devastation — the mathematics — the numbers — the words — the ruin — the ruin — the ruin — the presence of pressure — the absence of shame — all the devastation — the words — the ruin
I remember the feel of the bark on each of the trees by the house, red cedar, cherry blossom, japanese maple, dogwood, sugar maple — I remember their sounds, the sounds of the wind rustling in their leaves and swaying their branches in different seasons — I remember leaves on the ground, sometimes dry & gathered in great piles raked together, sometimes wet & sticking to the grass — I remember how they homed cicadas & great wings; sparrows, robins, & jays, squirrels & raccoons; with great loud crows perched at their tops — I remember the enormous old maple that fell & split my childhood home years after I moved away — I remember the trees that fell & the ones that, bending in strong storms, stood afterward — I remember walks through woods, trails blanketed with old leaves, tress so numerous & varied & with names I didn’t know & may never — I remember touching the bark of oaks & redwoods, birch & tupelo — I remember the sounds of the names of trees I’ve never seen, baobab & eucalyptus, teak, tournefortia, & acacia — I remember forests on fire, hillsides all clearcut, fields rendered barren by disease, the moors that once were forests, & I remember saplings that grew through concrete, saplings whose trunks grew solid — trees with demands there are trees that outdate empires, successions of empires, trees many times older than the language I speak, tree colonies older than the oldest artwork I know, ancient forests, that, ancient forests that will, there are ancient forests


As long as he has written music, Keir Neuringer (1976) has imbued his work with a sense of urgency and a mordant earnestness about the harm and desolation of so-called Western culture. On Elegies & Litanies, outrage, despair, and a mourning for the gone world are revealed in a compositional palette that is at turns angular, smoldering, menacing, but also arcadian. These are works born as much out of the composer’s studio as out of the rehearsal studio with Ensemble Klang. For Neuringer, hope evolves not necessarily out of content or form, but out of action: in a personal formulation of Gramsci’s pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will, it evolves out of the shared ritual of music making.

In-depth context, interviews, score excerpts and photos here: www.ensembleklang.com/keir-neuringers-elegies-litanies/

by Keir Neuringer

These three compositions—the notations, texts, performances, and post-production work taken together—speak for themselves. Rather than an introduction, here is an afterword. Elegies at the Border was constructed of work fragments from across the past decade. As with much of my work I am trying to acknowledge, to memorialize, to construct a temporal, sonic monument for some loss that is at once both specific and transcendent of its particularities. But in this work the catastrophes monumentalized are too numerous to name; they are total. The incidence of harm and hurt and ruin in our culture is not isolated but interlocked and mutually accelerating. Tragedy is everywhere, the cruelty abject, the outrage utter, the loss complete. The phrase “at the border” in the title refers to a specific border, and all borders, and the borderline between what in our culture is salvageable, redeemable, and all that is not.

Litanies of Trees was conceived as a companion piece. From the scene of the ruins evoked in Elegies I find myself, with my survivor guilt, still here. Litanies is a composition arising out of a deep love and reverence for the woods—places of comfort and solace to me—and the anxiety and sadness I experience living through the cataclysmic destruction of forests, biodiversity, and indigenous land throughout the world. Our dependence on trees is at once biological, cultural, civilizational, and personal. The enormity of the environmental decimation and collapse of our time greatly exceeds my ability to articulate it, but articulate it one must; whatever else this work is, it is also a note to my son and walking companion, Emiri, to whom the work is dedicated.

Where Elegies is, for me, compositionally expansive in scope, Litanies was composed quickly and simply, as a proposal of a piece of music that was actualized in rehearsal with Ensemble Klang. It’s a simple canon, the length of which is determined by the performers as they play, and related in obvious and oblique ways to liturgical and performance litanies of the past. The single melody line Thoreau Day (for Kadri Gopalnath) serves here as an interlude between these two works. Sourced from the same 2012 melodic diary as much of the Elegies material, it is named as a gesture of respect for two inspirational figures, one the early anarchist and naturalist, and the other the revered master of Carnatic saxophone.


released October 23, 2020

All works written by Keir Neuringer

Keir Neuringer, alto saxophone & spoken text
Michiel van Dijk, flute, bass clarinet, soprano & baritone saxophones
Erik-Jan de With, soprano, tenor & baritone saxophones
Anton van Houten, trombone
Joey Marijs, percussion
Saskia Lankhoorn, piano & keyboards
Pete Harden, electric guitar & banjo

Recorded by Micha de Kanter at Yoursonics Studio, Rijswijk (www.yoursonics.nl) on 1 May 2019, and 28 & 29 August 2019.
Mixed, edited and produced by Keir Neuringer, Pete Harden & Micha de Kanter
Mastered by Micha de Kanter
Design by Duel (www.studioduel.nl)

Ensemble Klang Records Nr 10
Ensemble Klang Records is a production of Stichting Ensemble Klang which is financially supported by the City of The Hague.


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