The Spheres


HD video 6.50 mins color/sound, etched brass plates, screen printed glass, vintage prints and documents.

—Presently we will hear Music of the Spheres, see star systems happenings of the Universe, to remind us of eternal truth, beauty, infinity.

German ultra-modernist composer Johanna M. Beyer (1888–1944) composed Music of the Spheres in 1938, intended as an prelude in her unrealized political opera Status Quo. The piece, composed “for three electrical instruments or strings” is among the first compositions for electrical instruments ever written, and the very first of its kind composed by a woman. Only one electronic reconstruction of the piece is known to exist, and The Spheres is the first recorded string performance of this musical passage. The work is staged in two parts: a filmed performance and reinterpretations of reference material affiliated with the opera installed as physical footnotes.

In 1938, the Leipzig-born and NY-based ultra-modernist composer Johanna M. Beyer (1888—1944) composed two fragments of music intended as part of her visionary unrealized political opera Status Quo— the prelude Music of the Spheres and the final movement Dance (for Full Orchestra). The compositions use collages as form and blend compositional styles and musical themes. Beyer wrote them during the interwar period; she touches on utopian ideas, and a commitment to social rights movements and uprisings is visible. She addresses political turbulence reminiscent of what we experience today, with the rise of fascist parties and traces of postcolonial conflicts. You can sense her holistic approach and interest in a spherical form of time in her compositional work. The same year she embarked on this project, she was diagnosed with ALS. Johanna M. Beyer was scarcely recognized and almost faded into obscurity; these pieces were not performed during her lifetime. However, in recent years, a new interest has emerged, with scholars, composers, musicians, and artists rediscovering her body of work—and at a slow pace, her compositions come to life.
The Spheres, installation view, Jan van Eyck Academie, 2015. Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.
The Spheres (String Version), film still. Cinematography: Antonis Antopoupus.
The Spheres (String Version), excerpt 2 mins (full length 6.50 mins). Cinematography: Antonis Antopoupus.
The Spheres, installation view, Gallery Box, Göteborg, 2016. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler.
Status Quo: Interlude, Music of the Spheres. Etched brass plates. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler.
Imprint (biography) and Certificate (biography), pigment print (copy of vintage print), riso print, optical lense. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler.
Status Quo: Narrative Outline of the Opera, Music of The Spheres, Announcer’s Voice, Act IV Geneva, Dance for Full Orchestra. Riso prints.
Location of Stars and Constellations: Collier’s World Atlas, 1938 edition. Vintage print. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler.
Certificate (biography). Riso print, optical lense.
The Spheres, installation view, Extra City Kunsthal, 2016. Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.
Status Quo: Narrative Outline of the Opera, Music of The Spheres, Announcer’s Voice, Act IV Geneva. Riso prints. Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.
The Spheres, installation view, Extra City Kunsthal, 2016. Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.

Performers: Anna Ágnes Nagy, Giorgia Beninati, Marta Atcher Soler, Eliana Cruz. Director, Editing and Grading: Conny Karlsson Lundgren. Cinematography: Antonis Antopoulus. Sound Recordist: Lucas Kramer. Light: Martijn Reumkens. Music Coordinator: Eliana Cruz. Sound: Jesper Norda. Assistant: Katharina Zimmerhackl. 
Special Thanks: The Performing Stars, Amy C. Beal, Larry Polanski, Bart van Dongen/Intro in Situ, Tim Rutten/Video Power, SAM Ateliers, Ron Benrstein, Margriet Thissen, Jonas van de Vosse.The Spheres is part of The Johanna Series, an ongoing body of work and collaborations in dialogue with Johanna M. Beyer's legacy. The Spheres was produced as part of the Studio Research Program at Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht. Other projects in The Johanna Series include Status Quo: Dance (for full Orchestra), Status Quo: ACT I–IV, and Clusters (2019).Exhibitions: Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht NL, Gallery Box, Gothenburg SE, Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp BE.

 ©MMXIV Conny Karlsson Lundgren