Helium Vola - Liod
Interview at Orkus Magazin 5/2004 (Michael Schäfer)

Liod should become a concept album - only a completely different one. Originally Ernst Horn intended, as was already the case with Qntal, to thematically relate modernity and the Middle Ages. However, after reviewing the historical text material, it became apparent that many of the records were about women. So the actual, rather time-critical concept was completely rejected and the natural course of events was allowed to take precedence. Nevertheless, from a purely musical point of view, the fusion of the epochs - the basic idea behind Helium Vola - still exists. Liod, the strange-looking name of the current work, embodies this basic principle in a figurative sense.

“I read Liod, a novel by Vladimir Sorokin. In Russian, Liod stands for ice. I just liked the sound of the word. In Old High German, however, Liod also means song or singing. LiOD is also the abbreviation for the chemical compound lithium deuterium oxide, which plays an important role in cold fusion,” says Ernst.

Is the new album called Liod because this expression was used in the Middle Ages as well as in the present? Does the term “Liod” merge in a way, as it also happens in the music of Helium Vola? “If I wanted to make myself important, I could say yes,” grins seriously. “The chemical aspect of the word was just a nice bonus. But I would have called the album Liod,” he smiles.

Helium Vola is - like Qntal - not necessarily light musical food. Liod also sounds rather bulky and capricious. On the other hand, there is certainly a tendency to be more catchy. Not really aware of this: “Hm… hard to say. I think Liod is more like quite a chunk. This may be due to the sheer length of the album. Perhaps the new CD is more homogeneous because it does not contain any voice samples. Their place is now taken by the Liods (four musical interludes titled with Liod - editor’s note). The Liods connect the pieces together. They are instrumental melody shortcuts that form a kind of red thread. Only towards the end of the album does their purpose become clear,” Ernst admits enigmatically. Therefore: What is deciphered in concrete terms? “In the end, it turns out that I refer to our debut by kind of recycling Omnis Mundi Creatura. From this song fragments of the line Nostrae vitae nostrae mortis appear again and again. You just don’t recognize them right away because they are shifted within themselves. At the end the whole decrypts itself, because the lyrics are now sung as a whole - only one key higher. The difference to the debut is that the word mortis (= death) is omitted and life (= vita) thus prevails. I just wanted a positive ending,” Ernst laughs happily.

In the present case, an illegitimate child is at the mercy of the antagonism between death and life - which in the Middle Ages was tantamount to stigmatisation for both the mother and the child. Ernst collected various old texts that tell of such women’s fates in order to subsequently make up the coherent story of his protagonist. “In the beginning, four to five women’s lyrics happened to pile up. From then on I searched specifically for similar fonts and rejected my original concept. In the end, vocal devotion convinced me that a woman’s fate should be drawn into the centre of the concept,” Ernst reports.

It’s spring, a woman falls in love, deflowering and pregnancy. The lover flees, it becomes winter, the woman remains alone and has to deal with the hostilities of her environment. The child “aches” - as Ernst expresses himself - through the album. It coughs and makes noises of malaise. “Basically, the child dies at the beginning of the CD. Wild geese fly away, which should make the disappearance of the soul audible. This is the starting point. Then I roll up the story from behind. The woman fights and I let the child speak for herself every now and then.

In Against a Demon, I adapted a spell from the Merseburg spells. This incantation was actually meant to keep a house away from evil influences. On Liod, however, the child wants to protect herself from death. It says that death can’t harm him because he can’t even pronounce the word chnospinci.” And what does that show us? “Of course the child doesn’t die,” Ernst grins thoughtfully in the room. “And - if you listen carefully, the wild duck flies back at the end of the CD. So the child survives,” Ernst solves the mystery.

Eva Horn, Ernst’s six-year-old daughter, lent her voice to this child. “In essence, that’s the whole story. La Fille by Michel Houellebecq is another leitmotif that appears more often. His black-haired girl with narrow lips symbolizes death. The melody of La Fille should make you concerned. Their repetition reinforces the effect of this motif. In the end, however, spring returns and life goes on. That’s the whole story.”

Let us return to the initial question. If Liod is more accessible and consistent than the first work, this suggests that the more coherence may have been initialized by the coherent concept. “Yes,” says Ernst laconically. If so, the texts should have been selected before the texts were written, right? “Of course! A congruent conception leads to more homogeneous music. The debut was not closed in itself thematically; that’s perhaps the reason for the higher musical divergence”, Ernst spoons thoughtfully in his muesli. “What I can say with certainty, however, is that I have tried to develop myself further as a composer. I paid more attention to polyphony and tried more in classical composition. La Fille can actually be described as a madrigal. In contrast, sound experiments were less important to me this time. Hence perhaps the greater homogeneity.”

But innovations are also perceptible in other respects. Here above all request for comfort and Chumemin stand out, these two pieces sound nevertheless too apart in the comparison to that, which is to be heard otherwise from Helium Vola. “Hm ja”, Ernst continues. “Sorry I’m so hungry at hab´,” he smiles. “Well, request for comfort has such strange syllable repetitions in it - right! This is reminiscent of the approach of rap musicians. In principle, rap is also based on stick rhymes. I just wanted it to be rhythmic. And yes, it’s grooving by my standards,” he laughs with a smack. “Oh, God, and Kumemin just surrendered. This is supposed to be a play about sexual greed. In the Carmina Burana von Orff there is the piece also; however in a lovely waltz rhythm. Here I have doubled many voices. These have become real sound clusters.”

It is also unusual to find Dormi, Ernst’s own composition in Italian on Liod. “I was missing a lullaby. Since I didn’t find any in old text collections, I wrote it myself,” he says pragmatically. “My Italian is bad. I strangled it and finally came to a reasonable conclusion. An Italian woman then read correction. And lo and behold: There were hardly any errors. You can see how far you can get with a dictionary,” he laughs ironically. “I just think these old writings are beautiful. Helium Vola is ultimately based on this. The ancient languages exude a very special atmosphere. For God’s sake, I really want to spare people with my lyrics! I’m really not fit enough for this. The melodies, however, come from me with two exceptions. I find that exciting: to recompose old songs.”

How can one imagine the collaboration between Ernst and his singer Sabine Lutzenberger? Ernst describes himself as a loner who finds it rather difficult to integrate others. This was ultimately the reason why the joint work with Qntal failed. “There are already conflicts,” exhales deeply. “On the other hand, I’m considerate of Sabine. Qntal was from the beginning a band consisting of three equal partners. Helium Vola, on the other hand, is my solo project,” he clarifies. “In this respect, helium vola is subject to completely different conditions. I would call it walking together”, Ernst expresses himself cautiously. “Sabine is the interpreter. That’s why I have to accept it if she doesn’t like one of my suggestions. Let me put it this way: I grew up with classical music. A composer writes notes which are sung later.

This has nothing to do with the group dynamics that existed at Qntal. But it is also the case that the other singers involved want notes. Classical musicians need sheet music! Internal band rehearsals are completely out of their reach. This makes the work much easier. Rather, the musicians come to my studio and sing in my sheet music. And that’s usually it. It’s a wonderful job,” enthuses Ernst. “On the other hand, the committed musicians already sing my notes, but they phrase them in their own individual way. Especially the soloistic things allow a certain scope for interpretation. Sabine also varies, brings in small burs and decorations, which gives the whole more depth. I would even say that their singing makes many of the pieces stronger than they are purely compositional. The songs literally live from their singing,” concludes seriously.