Helga Michaelis (* 4. April 1932 in Oberschreiberhau; † 20. Juni 2020 in Hamburg)

Wenn ich gen Himmel blicke, sehe ich die blauen Reflektionen, weiße Wolken. Meine Vorstellung reicht weiter: an die Grenzen der Erde, die Stratosphäre, zum Mond, den Planeten, den Sternen. Dort finde ich Dich nicht.

Ich weiß nicht, wo die Erinnerung wohnt, im Kopf, im Herz. Dort finde ich Dich, solange ich lebe.


Memento - Analyis

First of all: I'm aware that it seems a pretty bad idea to analyze the music you wrote by yourself.

Doing so, you risk to be perceived as a musician that is steered “by her head”, rather than by her intuition. Using one's head is not a bad thing at all (I would consider anyone who thinks otherwise – well: headless?!). But an artist is supposed to follow her emotions rather than the “cold” working of her conscious mind. To conform with these expectations, I should keep my mouth shut.

To tell the truth: I don't think so much when playing my guitar or my violin, improvising on an attempt to come up with new ideas. What I do, though, is analyzing my playing afterwards (and writing it down, so I can get back to it later).

Nevertheless: here are some unsorted remarks to Memento:

  • The last verse of the choir is repeated twice: the introduction (minus the first two phrases of the solo-violin) is a variation, and so are the last few bars from the two guitars.
  • The first 4-bar pattern, in E-minor, played by the acoustic guitar, has a long breath: it continues until the solo of the distorted lead guitar ends – and it won't come back. The guitar solo prepares some new interpretations of the pure E-minor chord (it goes to B-major/A-minor). The string section picks up on these changes, when finally the basic harmonic structure “gives in”, and follows.
  • From that point, the chords get more and more “complicated”. At some point, the tempo slows down, with a melody presented by the acoustic guitar (plus bass & drums). In these eight bars, the melodic and harmonic material is introduced for almost all variations until the end.
  • There is a certain structure of rhythm: the entire section before the solo vocals kick in, is a straight 4/4, but structured as 3+3+2/8. In the first verse, there are some “breaks” in 3+2/8 (just “leaving out” one 3/8). The following passage leads from 3+3+2/8 to 3+3+3/8 (just “adding” one eight). The choir in the finale is a 9/8 (strictly “in time”, by the way – no tempo changes here), although the melody “hides” the simple meter.

    Choir Memento

  • Although I have to play to a click (all instruments are played “live”, but one after the other), the tempo is changing all the time. I spent a lot of time to build a “tempo-track” with my recording-software – I believe, this work pays off a great deal, and makes a lot of impact on the “live”-feel of the recording.

  • 18.10.2019


    Wien, Staatsoper
    Wien, Staatsoper
    (right lower corner: mirroring myself)

    Words: Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)
    Music: Michael Michaelis

    The Bustle in a House

    By Emily Dickinson

    The bustle in a house
    The morning after death
    Is solemnest of industries
    Enacted upon earth.

    The sweeping up the heart
    And putting love away
    We shall not want to use again
    Until eternity.

    To the memory of Hedwig Getraude Michaelis (*19. March 1926; †28. February 2017), my father's older sister, my »Tante Traudchen«.

    Michael: Vocals, Guitars, Violin & Viola, Bass, Cymbals & HiHat, Wave Drum (Snare, Bass Drum, Toms), Percussion (Shaker, Caxixi, Tambourine).

    Recorded, edited, and mixed proudly using Cubase.

    (Last Update: 27.10.2019)

    [All Rights reserved. © Michael Michaelis, 2019]

    Memento - Cantata

    I was almost done working on my latest piece of music (Memento), when I noticed – quite surprisingly, actually – that it might be a Cantata. At least it has a lot of it's elements: recitatives, arias, a pretty wild mixture of different styles, and last but not least a choir at the end. I'm far from comparing myself with Bach – but he is not just famous for his polyphonic masterpieces, but also started a revolution by ignoring the boundaries between sacred and secular music. That gives me quite an excuse to clash elements of “classical” music with those of Jazz, Blues, and Rock, even in a piece dealing with grief and mourning.


    The Bustle in the House

    The bustle in a house
    The morning after death
    Is solemnest of industries
    Enacted upon earth.

    The sweeping up the heart
    And putting love away
    We shall not want to use again
    Until eternity.

    (Emily Dickinson)


    When You Are Old (William Butler Yeats)

    Den Text von William Butler Yeats hatte ich schon eine ganze Weile vor mir, mich aber schwer damit getan, ein Konzept für die Vertonung zu finden. Das Resultat ist ganz knapp (keine vier Minuten lang), harmonisch und formal sehr einfach, in einer eher kleinen „Besetzung”, aber – so hoffe ich zumindest – frei von Klischees. Ich habe nicht versucht, die Aussage des Textes zu verdeutlichen; das Gedicht ist derart stark, daß das nicht nötig ist, oder vielleicht sogar ein Fehler wäre.

    Ich will jetzt nicht mit einer ausführlichen Analyse des Textes daherkommen; zwei Anmerkungen kann ich mir aber doch nicht verkneifen:

  • Es heißt: „How many loved .. your beauty“; und: „But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you“. Ich hatte anfangs den Verdacht, daß sich hier Ironie oder sogar Sarkasmus versteckt. Dafür finden sich im Text aber keinerlei Hinweise; das ist mE. wörtlich zu nehmen.
  • In dem kurzen Text kommt „Love“ bzw. „loved“ sechsmal(!) vor – das ist natürlich kein Fehler eines schlechten Dichters, sondern präzises Kalkül. Das Wort wird leer und bekommt einen hohlen Klang. Yeats braucht keine Metaphern, um sein Thema zu erklären. Er legt seine Aussage in die Substanz seiner Sprache.
  • 7.1.2019

    When You Are Old

    William Butler Yeats
    William Butler Yeats

    Words: William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)
    Music: Michael Michaelis

    When You Are Old

    By William Butler Yeats

    When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

    And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead
    And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

    Michael: Vocals, Guitars, Violin & Viola, Seaboard, Bass, Cymbals & HiHat, Wave Drum (Snare, Toms, Bass Drum).

    Recorded, edited, and mixed proudly using Cubase.

    [All Rights reserved. © Michael Michaelis, 2019]

    (*) Some remarks (German)


    When I Have Fears

    John Keats
    John Keats

    Words: John Keats (1795 – 1821)
    Music: Michael Michaelis

    When I have Fears

    By John Keats

    When I have fears that I may cease to be
      Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
    Before high-piled books, in charactery,
      Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
    When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
      Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
    And think that I may never live to trace
      Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
    And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
      That I shall never look upon thee more,
    Never have relish in the faery power
      Of unreflecting love - then on the shore
    Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
      Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

    Michael: Vocals, Guitars, Violin & Viola, Piano, Bass, Cymbals & HiHat, Wave Drum (Percussion), additional sequencer programming (Marimba, Clarinets, Timpani).

    Recorded, edited, and mixed proudly using Cubase.

    (Last Update: 3.11.2018)

    [All Rights reserved. © Michael Michaelis, 2018]

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