Elisabeth Wandeler-Deck: ricochet rikoschett / eine ungefähre passacaglia möglicherweise

Elisabeth Wandeler-Deck (1939) is living as a writer and improvising musician in Zurich, Switzerland. She worked as an architect and later on also as a sociologist and psychologist.
She has published prose and poetry, realising projects together with improvising musicians and composers and performing as a writer and as an improvising musician (piano, guitar, text; workshops with Derek Bailey, Barre Philipps, Vinko Globokar, Peter K Frey, Christian Wolff, Maggy Nichols, Katia Olivia, Marianne Ambresin) member of bunte hörschlaufen: Helen Geissberger (va), Brigitte Meyer (vcl), Beni Rüdisüli (v), Elisabeth Wandeler-Deck (p, g, text). www.wandelerdeck.ch

Recent publications: DAS HEIMWEH DER MEERESSCHILDKRÖTEN, (prose) Berne 2015; ARIOSO – ARCHIVE DES ZUKOMMENS, (poetry) Wienna 2016; VISBY INFRA-ORDINAIRE, (mixed forms) Berne 2018; TAGUMATAGKAIRO (photography combined with poetry) Zurich 2019; ATTACCA HOLDRIO (poetry) Zurich 2020

Excerpt from the score ricochet rikoschett / eine ungefähre passacaglia möglicherweise by Elisabeth Wandeler-Deck
ricochet rikoschett / eine ungefähre passacaglia möglicherweise, interpreted by the speech art trio sprechbohrer

Elisabeth Wandeler-Deck

ricochet rikoschett / an approximate passacaglia1, possibly

On a passacaglia “lines and syllables” / “melody and its Echo” against “pulse and insistence”2

Translated from German by Mark Kanak

Search for a conception of form

Searching for a concept of form, fleeting thoughts, penetrating keywords,

(text or sound) architecture, fleeting, precise, in spaces, going, going ahead, talking, what would if, now, sprechbohrer-like

Want to continue dealing with Passacaglia (György Ligeti / “Passacaglia ungherese”; Robert Pinget / “Passacaille” or in English translation “passacaglia,” with an afterword by Reto Hänny) or Passacaglia – Wikipedia3

Change movements → Passa calle changing the side of the road, see also Wikipedia.

Density levels → Ligeti’s Passacaglia for harpsichord features three expressions of sound / event densities, thus creating the impression of acceleration

Here also, the intertwining of the creeping through the voices with the “free” sound movements is interesting.

Fundamentals of the composition: Text / Passacaglia / ECHO

It quickly became clear to me that I wanted to deal with the musical form of the passacaglia. This had fascinated me in several senses, on the one hand in a literary sense for a long time, and here I would mention Robert Pinget, “Passacaille,” Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1969, German translation by Reto Hänny published as “Passacaglia,” Bibliothek Suhrkamp 1991. Reto Hänny supplemented the volume with an illuminating afterword, in which he also discussed the passacaglia as a musical happening. In this context, I quote the jacket blurb, which seems to me to clarify my composition in several respects and inspired me to do something of my own:

In music, a passacaglia is a piece based on a recurring bass theme (pulse, EWD). In his text… Robert Pinget… evokes, by linkage and variation, a complex refrain effect that suspends the passage of time and death for the duration of the enigmatic story about a dead person.

On the one hand Passacaglia / Puls, chorus: the going and at the same time faltering time comes to the sound. Time is suspended, simultaneously, and in one. Sound stands and drives forward. To imagine the sound of footsteps in the narrow streets of Venice, their echoes mingling with the echoes of voices.

On the other hand, I wanted to further explore ECHO, that is, an echo that is initially familiar as a mechanical reverberation, as a bouncing of sound (acoustic) energy off resistance, similar to that of a projectile off an obstacle, thus generating a ricochet.

ECHO, however, also serves as a formulated and formative answer. Very far away you can hear the sad story of Echo and Narcissus, of Echo, who was punished for her eloquence by only repeating what she heard, and of Narcissus, who was not adept at love and despaired of Echo’s (non-)answers, resounded in the poetic material.

Echo for me as a musical challenge, namely to not simply repeat the text mimetically, but to set this text (off), in whatever way, shifted, (in)to a different sound, (in)to a phonetic quality alien to everyday speech. In contrast to the myth, ECHO is to be understood4 as an active instance, as a shaper, as a transformer of the accused.

Thirdly, the three voices that intertwine, contrasting, form an invitation to the slow dance of the


These thoughts and finding suitable language material, an intricate matter, with the following


Language material 1, the text and its echo – Narcissus and Echo – the desire for answer, for speech Echo material from “ricochet,” this is the headline of a series of poems in “versionenlustECHO,” Edition Howeg, Zurich 2022 as well as variants of this cycle with the addition of “silent poems” for the artist Marion Strunk.

The poems consist of stanzas, from whose word-material small echo passages spring forth repeatedly, joining the stanzas in the form of short lines or small groups of words in a disturbing way, so that a sound tendency suitable for my composition is already apparent in the text.

Speech material 2 the steps, Passi of the passage of time

First or intermediate or final syllables, taken from the basic text, ordered according to the vowels that determine them; these pass / slide through all voices. Unlike a sliding of the signifiers, which may apply to the ECHO or ricochet events, these involve a very slow bouncing, pacing and stepping of short sounds. Speech quanta separated from each other, each set at approximately regular time intervals at the edges of speech. On the question of language quanta, see also Wolfram Malte Fues, “buchstäblich buchstieblich,” Edition Howeg 2021.

Speech material 3 Talk, speech

The flow of the passacaglia, its movement, is interrupted at a suitable point by a standstill, which I make sound with talk, or speech. The network of voices and passi (steps) breaks off, and a tangle of voices results in a kind of untimeliness. See also Hans Wolfgang Schaffnit, “Das Gerede – Zum Problem der Krise unseres Redens,” Passagen, Vienna 1996

Time material/ gradients / sequences / forms of movement and other parameters

To speak slowly and hesitantly, to speak gently, to make the pores of speech sound (out)

Speaking Poros, what does Poros think, how Poroses also think musically, why an interest in Poroses

Poros embodies the way out, the fullness; father of Eros

In the porous limestone mountains, in the karst, that is, abruptions, collapses, the subsoil decayed, unstable, brittle, hard, meager

Speech quanta percolate through appropriate matter and generate words, terms, text, word sounds, murmur a process, percolation happens, sound(ing) happens

The murmur between the gurgling; “Passacaglia” / Robert Pinget, quoted in the epilogue by Reto Hänny, as also a reference to Samuel Beckett (p. 121)

talk into a sleep, through three voices, mumbling in sleep, chuckling, throbbing, walking, moving, through times, in time, stopping time in sleep, stopping ECHO time, running ECHO in time

Chronic transduction in Clemens Gadenstätter: “sediment – reflections on a compositional phenomenon” – Musik unserer Zeit – SRF5

Presentation of gradients in the score

In Das a. Das i. was kann der Umlaut., my first composition for sprechbohrer, time goes/moves in the horizontal (abscissa), the voices and the associated parameters in the vertical (ordinate). That is, time goes from left to right.

The question to be investigated was whether time could run from top to bottom, thereby assigning the speaking voices (text and parameters) as columns in the horizontal: No.

From these considerations, the movements of the Passi (steps, pulses) had been preserved by the three voices.

Vocal setup

Light female voice / light male voice / dark male voice = S / G / H

Presentation of text and speech parameters in the score

What is the musical performance of the notation? enable? prevent? What can it do, what does the notation achieve in the resulting composition?

The realization of a passacaglia from ricochet / Rikoschett

The realization of a passacaglia from ricochet /Rikoschett is subject to the

basic idea that even text forms contain forms of movement, that already inside/withing the texts, loopings/abrasions/ stagnations /accelerations must/should/can be investigated and explored.

First idea of a passacaglia of speaking

The text elements

1. #m ake poems out of Echo / ricochet → imagine something airy: garlands in the wind? A movement of its own; how to create it?

2. #To do this: in ECHO, ricochet → from the text, elements bounce off / back / form echo elements

3. #To this end: the going, walking, passing, going out, namely the sounding, echoing steps of syllables, understood as speech quanta, formed by the above, dark, quasi regular (as this produces only quasi regular(ity), no marching of the tones/sounds!); perhaps also use additional material.

→ Three forms of movement emerge from three forms of text.

Second idea of a passacaglia of speaking

1. A murmur of richochet material from three voices

2. #Gently pushing the echo elements into the murmur or developing the murmur from the echo elements, with the idea: the echo gives rise to its – tonal – origin.

3. #The richochet material spreads out, the voices develop their independence until they possibly intertwine again.

4. #Echo: the time that an echo takes to sound, then to fade away, longer → time, ≠ pause / = pause → work with it, → tension.

5. #the going, walking, passing, going out, namely the vocal steps of syllables, understood as speech quanta, formed by the above, dark, quasi regular, bell-like, wandering between the three voices, ringing into the murmur (as this only produces quasi regular(ity), no marching of the tones!) → the deep voice, G, begins with it and lasts for a long time. In the gaps between the individual strokes, gradually different text. Hereinafter referred to as passacaglia pulse, or pulse.

6. #The interruption, the standstill: the passacaglia is once interrupted by talk of a still to be determined duration → div. Ovid-Echo passages, other language from ricochet, possibly individual Latin words.

7. #Again the passacaglia starts, the “steps” are initially clearly taken over by the light male voice. It continues.

Notation like an ECHO

lein ein———-x /lein ein———-o /r—annt

Compose like a pulse of language → language quanta Wolfram Malte Fues6

Extract speech quanta, i.e. groups of max. three letters, which at the same time (do not) mean this and that other, from ricochet poems and from the ECHO-related Ovid passages and indicate the vowel (not) contained in them by means of a symbol, in order to lend the pulse, the stride, the step its variability in its sequence.

Compose as in chit-chat/chatter/talk → Kagel? An experiment with sprechbohrer!

To compose chatter from inexpressive speaking, that is, not chanting at any time.

(The possibility of speech taken from word fragments, laughs, grimaces, etc. of the series of word quanta. No phonetic poetry!!! Voice stream from another chapter of the above-mentioned volume of poetry (not followed further.)

Talk → from a piece of prose that’s basically the same for all of the voices, but the beginning of which is set to be shifted by one word group. The voices start at the same time, creating a jumble of voices. ≠ canon!

Performance terminology

List of musical performance terms – Wikipedia7

Or basic mood “andante pensieroso e vaporoso,” “mf to mp

Volume change not with cresc./decresc, but stepwise

“Talking” continuous mf

The composition

1 page = 30”, divided into 6 x 5” sections; this grid is subdivided again for the passacaglia pulse so that on 30”, 12 “steps” come. Has to be tried.

1. Part A (see sketch)

The composition starts with echo elements made of ricochet: light male voice and with the passacaglia pulse: deep male voice, mp to mf, slightly fluctuating in volume and pitch to prevent chanting.

Pause of the ricochet voices/passacaglia pulse (hereinafter referred to as “pulse”) throughout

2. Part B (drafted in the sketch under A)

Insertion of “murmur” from ricochet material: light and dark male voice; female voice takes over pulse → development of events in writing the score …

see also part B in the sketch, i.e. pulse is assumed alternately by all three voices, as a small interruption of ricochet-passage.

3. #Part C (“Chit-chat/chatter/talk,” see sketch; separate attempt with sprechbohrer

based on a short text)

→ Duration 45” / employs quasi attacca according to Part B

4. Part D takes up form of A / B again

Immediately following Part C (“Chit-chat/chatter/talk,” 5” general pause, in which the pulse resumes.)

1Certain ECHO fragments can always be heard in Venetian alleys or between container stacks

2see sketches for the development of the composition


4Myth can be understood as a narrative that transmits what has been fixed, in order to set it in motion again, at some point.


6Wolfram Malte Fues, buchstäblich buchstieblich, Edition Howeg 2021