grenzkæmpfe | fighting on the border

bertl mütter solo

cd arbe 2 | isbn 978-3-85129-643-3

first edition 1993 (sold out)
second, substantially revised, redacted and revisited, new and in many ways improved edition 2007


preface to the first edition (1993)

time has come for me to document my solo work of recent years. all the tracks on this cd were recorded live in concert, though not before a live audience. the music was performed in three places: in the neutral, private atmosphere of the studio, in the public place of worship at the basilica of mariazell, and in the underworld of the water reservoir rosenberg I in graz.


preconditions for a second edition (2007)

out of print. a phrase that lights up the eyes of vendors trading in rare books and recordings. when my distributor, the simply heaven-sent wieser verlag, inquired after a modest quantity of fighting on the border—and, even after i’d searched every nook and cranny of my storeroom, i had to respond with a woeful ‘sorry, sold out’, i knew it was time. the inability to fulfill this unexpected request (it must have been immense, more precisely: thirteen! o’ but what a number, what a hit! came at me from out of nowhere with a taste of fame: to produce a legacy in one’s own lifetime, the euphoric dream of every artist and producer to reproduce himself. it was immediately apparent: time has come for a second edition, the market is veritably screaming for it.


preface to the second edition (2007)

i don’t like borrowing books. i have a propensity—it comes in waves—to scribble them full: what i really like (!), what amuses me (?), what I find questionable (?), what i’d like to note and be ready to cite off the tip of my tongue later (a vertical line in the margins, or underlining of the entire passage, without using a ruler); what is more, the book comes out of it pocked with paper clips (dogears are taboo). years later, upon revisiting any book i’ve thus made my own, i wonder: huh, did i make that mark? i’d take note of something else altogether today; a lot has gotten clearer since then, but many a thing less so, contexts have fallen by the wayside, others, connections, networks, have emerged. at any rate, a stranger stares out at me from the book, a stranger that is me.
as long as we live, there can be no end result. today i am forty-two, but at the same time, am just turning four, seven, eleven, eighteen or twenty-nine. the question is what will have made its mark like a tree ring or a leaf?, and there are many who claim to be evergreens.
looking back at this booklet (in its first edition) has been like that: is that who i really was? is that who i really am?—you bet it is! and that’s precisely why i decided to combine those original texts with my current, equally preliminary, positions. more on that in the editorial note to follow.
bethatasitmay: you’ve got to stop somewhere (here: at the publ. deadline). inotherwords: every fragment is eo ipso complete.


editorial note on the second edition (2007)

with the release of this new, completely revised edition, fighting on the border looks back on thirteen years of existence in its entirety. in fact, it’s not hard to reconstruct preliminary studies dating back as far as 1991. completely stunned by what seemed like a sudden and unanticipated demand, we seriously began to consider and, after a period of intense discussion, decided to proceed with the substantial editorial effort involved in releasing a second edition, whereby we quickly realized that a mere facsimile of the original would hardly suffice, but that we would have to completely re-work the material from the bottom up, to expand upon it and, with an eye for precise documentation of its genesis, to bring it entirely up to date; hence, since we’d since recognized the need to supplement the dates of recordings with an exact citation of the century, we also took great care in adhering strictly to expanding the work on the basis of a principle that ensured the quality in an enduring way, recordings of new or newly rediscovered little gems whose true significance has only now emerged, indeed, we sought to avoid any attempt to foreground modern trends in music because that’s the only way we could effect our desired goal of allowing for a substantial deepening of understanding and expansion of content far removed fashionable currents, even the fashion of modernism, ultimately creating a work that is complete in and of itself, though not by any means, as we shall soon see—horribile dictu!—a cold or closed case: a work for which, as we have seen, there is demand among experts in the field and interested laypeople alike and which thus contributes to filling a gap, bearing in mind that absolute perfection can never be achieved, not entirely, which is why, at the same time, we would be remiss in neglecting to express our appreciation of your patience and understanding because it had to be this way, not least of all due to the constraints of time in completing this new edition which succeeds in bringing things up to date with respect to certain basic content issues, but which could not include improvements that would have required additional research and more extensive deliberations as well as systematic bibliographic entries that in many cases, though not in every case, had to be put off with a promise to take them up some time in the future, and that is where we have set our sights—however pessimistic, however indifferent or, however hopeful this may be, we do hope our future prospects include the prospect of making the ongoing improvements as need arises, including making periodic updates available electronically, which—since we are working with the latest state-of-the-art technology—will not only satisfy today’s needs, but those of tomorrow with the promise of promising to open new prospects for future generations to investigate.


1    gedscho    5:52

graz, april 12, 1991; aad
trombone, voice


hmmm. acrobatic virtuosity.
post festum i’d like to dedicate the heroically high b-flat following the cascade of triplets to mr. marsalis and his ferocious knights in the deployment force of the international jazz police.
please do not pay any mind to the charming pre-reverb caused by the analog tape (but i suppose it’s too late for that).
ohand: i left the police whistle out of the instrumentation list, thereasonbein’: we’reon

2     „... denn die grenzkaempfe hoeren niemals auf...” /
        „...for the fighting on the border never relents...”
basilica mariazell, may 10-12, 1993
trombone, voice, live electronics

commissioned by the feldkirch forum, vorarlberg
premièred april 23, 1992 in st. nikolaus cathedral at feldkirch

we imagine that we are on firm ground when really we stand on the cutting edge. only a veil separates us from the abyss. yet we always call to account the more optimistic figures in any table of statistics. our chances of winning the lottery are smaller than those of us dying of cancer. to constantly remind ourselves of this fact would tear us to shreds. in the here and now these statistics are meaningless. what good is it to the person involved in a plane crash to know that flying is the safest form of transport?
grand pronouncements may be empty and made in vain, the smallest deviation might trigger a catastrophe. a three-degree deviation to the left of a straight line will have more impact than a 90 degree turn on a crossroad. it all depends on the context.
fighting on the border: that means, literally, there is war in the south. danse de la fureur. this sequence of octavized trombone is based on olivier messi?n’s quatour pour la fin du temps, call for the revocation of time.
but it’s not all gloom and doom. these slight deviations can call forth miracles, too—at least that's what i'd like to believe. rise up, and when time comes to let go, move on: "as long as you keep climbing, the stairs will keep coming, they will continue to emerge before your feet as you climb." (franz kafka)

that sanctuary—then not yet renovated—was a very live room. i have an especially intense memory of the way i prepared the dummy head microphone for what was ahead by letting the strains of mahler's trinklied vom jammer der erde/drinking song of the world's woes rip through the basilica—sung by fritz wunderlich, of course—the song is as pagan as they come. but the space was re-catholicized by the hommage ? messi?n, if only to pass show.

there’s always war to the south, sometimes more to the east, sometimes less, unrelenting internal fighting on the border; andyetatthesametime: “earth is a violent paradise.” (ryszard kapu?ci?ski)
unvarnished, throughandthrough, that’s ftfatbnr, when i listen to it again, in awe, at any rate, an affirmation for letting go of bad compromises.
a dark encourager.


3     de profundis     5:24
water reservoir rosenberg I, graz, june 9, 1993
trombone, voice

”the a-flat major scale is the key that releases the soul to the realm of the supernatural and encompasses the divine retribution of the afterworld or a higher providence... (it) represents the sense of solemnity aspirating in god’s peace and elevates to the infinity of blissful emotion (...) but that profound longing can also assume a darker color or mingle with melancholy (...)”
ferdinand gotthelf hand, musical aesthetics, leipzig 1837-41

if thou, lord, shouldest mark inquieties,
o lord, who shall stand? (...)
my soul waiteth for the lord
more than they that watch for the morning.
(psalm 130)

dark, and furthermore, oppressively beautiful. looking back, i confess, it’s more a patent dismissal than a blubbering plea. and in the end, this warmth emerges in the key of a-flat major. not even the slamming door can chase that away.
there’s some crackling in the recording—such is life. you either decide to be charitable and let it be, orinstead are amazed that the artist, already in 1993, just before the turn of the millennium, had foreseen that dj-re-mixed crackling sound of side-burned, turn-whatever-trips-your-trigger-into-art standard that had established itself as the must-have non plus ultra in art around the turn of the millennium, and was able to apply it so painfully well.


4     idylle/idyll    6:42
graz, april 12, 1991; aad
trombone, voice, small instruments


once again, notjazz.
the person who made this recording is a prof today. i could have guessed.


5     palimpsest     10:17
basilica mariazell, june 8, 1993
voice, trombone, ocarina, triton shell, live electronics

palimpsestos (greek) – threadbare parchment, used for a second time. past layers can be read; mahler, schubert.

it’s actually a paradox: a palimpsest, recorded in one sitting, as a first take.
ocarina, mahler’s wie ein naturlaut, the haut goût of the triton shell. then, wie ein kondukt, he meanders looking for the way to the great symphony, and finds it, hiding behind a cloud of sound (or is it the eddying whitewater?), and for the first time ever, he wants to take off with the guy tottering to and fro, barefoot on the ice. but he lingers anyway, the scraping notwithstanding.


6     aequale (malus)     1:41
choir chamber in the monastery st. lambrecht, january 14, 2007
trombone, voice

note left by an anonymous listener 2006 (early midday)
“if i may make one request: please, no bertl muetter (and consorts) early in the morning. i have to turn down the radio because my ears just can’t stand that noise. even my cats are looking all indignant, so i know my taste can’t be all that reprehensible. and when i turn the radio down, i forget to turn it back up and so i miss bruckner and suchlike.”

well, neither suchlike nor the organ is going to get you past the graveyard, not even in good weather. aequale—a mostly serious piece for several of the same instruments that can also be played outside in bad weather without damaging the instruments. here: a trombone played multi-phonically.
anton bruckner sends his regards.
as far as the indignant pussycats are concerned—minz and maunz, i presume—i refer you to the final scene in the dreadful story of poor little pauline in shockheaded peter, an aequal lachrymal flood of tears, so to speak.
nb: since the piece—even played short and sweet, is very tragic, i couldn’t bring myself to call this addition to the second edition a bonus track; let’s save that for number eight [8].


7     kuß am schluß / one last kiss     3:38
basilica mariazell, may 12, 1993
trombone, voice

dedicated to josef haslinger. while in a train he asked other travellers in the restaurant car to help him define the taste of earwax (tangy?... bitter?) “have you ever tongued an ear?” one last kiss is perhaps one approach to this question. i recommend that you wear headsets while listening to this miniature.

due to the spelling reform (ss instead ß) this has since morphed into a sharper-tongued kissss. and it’s since become impossible to imagine the scenario depicted here: where on earth is there still a dining car in a train? everywhere, these cramped buffet cars, which veritably declare the passengers legally incompetent, offering their unimaginative crapola. (i’ve deliberately included this gratuitous commentary here because i hope that, by the time the need comes along for a third edition—and it most certainly will—i can report on the thoroughgoing re-introduction of dining cars, even in trains traveling only within austria’s border, for example, between innsbruck and graz. [hoc] credo quia absurdum.)
so what do you think about these theatrics?! it starts [6] at the grave (and it occurs to me now: one day in early spring the guy this is dedicated to and i were in jerusalem, on mount zion in fact, after we’d escaped from a cemetery that was locked down from behind, secured by a concrete wall and barbed wire—they are especially careful in these parts, because back in the day, two others had gotten away). afterward [hic], the headphones. and as an epilogue, following that one last kiss, [8] the telephone.
“i don’t know, is it supposed to mean anything?—yeah.” (werner pirchner)


8     preislied/prize song (bonus)    3:22

graz, 1994 (exact date unknown), via telephon; add
cardboard tubes, trombone, voice, analog teddybear sound generator

“prize comes from praise" (erwin ringel).
if you want to know what it feels like to work at a call center, then just keep your headphones on for this one. this documentary recording (and it should not be received as anything else) was created as a telephone statement on the subject of honorary awards and was first published on the cd werkstadt graz preis – österreichbild, a trans-media research project on the culture of honorary awards in austria.
nb (1): the prize at issue here was the city of graz’s emerging artist’s prize, awarded to me by a decision of the city council of the provincial capital of graz in its session on december 15, 1989, and received on february 13, 1990 “for substantial contributions in the field of music”. (how could they have known already back then?)
nb (2): the bank account given here has been closed, the bank sold many a time; if you would like to inquire after my current account information, please see the © copyright page. praise & gratitude in advance.


editorial acknowledgement 2007

this new edition has benefited greatly from the many inquiries and insights offered by the circle of readers, listeners and researchers in the field—so many in number that only a general group acknowledgment is possible. perhaps you will recognize your own contribution in one spot or another.


acknowledgements 1993 (short version 2007)

many have helped me. i haven’t forgotten anyone.


biographical note

"bertl muetter may in fact be very talented. but he makes horrendous music." (source known to the editor).

bertl muetter, was born in 1965 in steyr, upper austria and freelances in steyr, graz and vienna. feel free to contact me, for the chance to get the sensational, promotional details that make art more artificial (workshops with..., played with..., concerts in...).

bertl muetter, date of birth unchanged, 1965 in steyr, and still living as a freelance, in vienna and elsewhere. if you’d like to know even more, please have a look at my highly recommendable website, where you can get the daily mother lode from my muetterlog. (sorry, but it's in deutsch)


translated by lilian friedberg, cdp