Ernst Horn
»Lili Marleen, Baghdad, 2’91«
Feature at Orkus Magazine


The picture shows a crater, components that were once part of a protective device for humans. We’re talking about an air-raid shelter. But the viewer’s main focus is inevitably on something else: a young woman stands in the middle of this debris field, lonely, looking up high. A bomb has literally hit here. Flowers are scattered on the floor. A real incident? Yes, and at the moment unfortunately more topical than ever. The photo was taken in 1991, shortly after a tragic bomb attack on an air raid shelter in which at least 400 civilians were killed.

And this is exactly the subject of the new solo project by Deine Lakaien musician Ernst Horn, which was recently released on Chrom Records under the title Lili Marleen, Baghdad, 2’91.

It was the request of the Einstein Cultural Center in Munich to win him for a festival, coupled with the above-mentioned photography, which provided Ernst with the inspiration for this project, which he launched in September 2002. Horn invested four weeks of hard work for this performance, which he premiered at the end of October together with Sabine Lutzenberger at this festival. The cooperation with the singer, who Ernst was already able to win over for his medieval electronics project Helium Vola in 2001, was already obvious because of the historical texts he selected for Lili Marleen. But what exactly is behind this small but extremely complex production? “It is about the accidental bombing of an air-raid shelter in February 1991, during which hundreds of civilians were killed. This event was subsequently concealed and hushed up by the media. Lili Marleen herself is a fictional person; at the same time I have attempted to put an individual in the centre. Lili Marleen can be seen as a personified soldier’s bride waiting for her husband to return from the war. But that will never happen,” explains Ernst. “All too often it becomes clear to me that the non-Western man is simply not an individual fate in local reporting. Rather, and this is the cruel thing about it, it is treated as a mass differentiated by skin colour.”

There is no denying that there was a conflict between America and Iraq in the last quarter of 2002, when Lili Marleen was performed live. But just these days Lili Marleen, Baghdad, 2’91 is becoming sadly topical.

The lyrics or text fragments that Ernst has selected for this project fit into the context of the album in many ways. Sometimes more, sometimes less abstract. Thus Ondas Domar De Vigo, Martim Codex is about a woman waiting for her lover, while Guerra Junquiero: Regresso Ao Lar, a text from the 19th century, is simply supposed to stand for a depressive mood. But Lili Marleen’s passion for medieval poetry also comes to the fore, and some lines from the old high German Hildebrandslied can be found on the record. “It’s about father and son going to war together,” explains Ernst. A situation that can probably be related to any time, and that also applies in the case of Lili Marleen. It is precisely such texts, interpreted by Sabine Lutzenberger, that give rise to a hint of helium vola. And so Lili Marleen, Baghdad, 2’91 contains, among other things, elements of beautiful melodies and songs, in which hard electronics and voice samples of George Bush senior as well as his son are repeatedly inserted.

As the fans of the Munich professional musician may know, the Iraq topic is not unknown territory for Ernst Horn. Shaken by distorted media coverage and the lie of a “clean” war, Horn recorded his first solo work The Skies Over Baghdad at the beginning of 1991, which only recently appeared in its third edition with a newly designed booklet.

Seven years later, Johnny Bumm’s Wake, another solo activity by the always busy artist, was released, once again expressing his criticism of our media world. In this case, however, in a much more humorous, satirical and ironic way.

The work of the studied pianist and conductor Ernst Horn is multi-faceted and varied, and this will probably not change in the future. With Lili Marleen, Baghdad, 2’91 we hold a new piece of sophisticated music in our hands, which, in addition to superbly arranged electronics and wonderful singing, is above all intended to stimulate reflection, and it can be said that Ernst Horn has once again hit the nerve of the time with this brilliant performance.

J.Z. - Orkus Musikmagazin 5/2003