Basel version 2011
ZWEI-MANN-ORCHESTER [Two-Man Orchestra] for two one-man orchestras (1971–73), described by its creator Mauricio Kagel (1931–2008) as an “unautonomous automatophone,” is surely one of the strangest yet most original pieces of contemporary music ever composed.
When it was premièred at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1973, Kagel and his musicians, Wilhelm Bruck and Theodor Ross, surprised their mystified audience with a gigantic contraption pieced together from more than 200 broken, battered and discarded instruments and dysfunctional sound-generators. They were played with the aid of strings, rods, levers and all manner of other movable elements by the smallest combination of musicians capable of forming an ensemble. The traditional instrumental body of the renowned festival that had commissioned the work – the orchestra – was reflected in a caricature raised to the level of sound-art.
In 2011 a new version of ZWEI-MANN-ORCHESTER was produced in Basel as part of a joint project involving the Paul Sacher Foundation, the Hochschule für Musik Basel and the Museum Tinguely. It marks the third rendering of this conceptual score following its world première and a second version produced at the Kassel Documenta IX in 1992.