Helium Vola

Release Information 2004
Helium Vola: Liod


The sun is the central celestial body of our solar system, radiating light and heat. The sun (or “helios” in Greek) also constantly produces helium, the second most common element in the Universe after hydrogen. This noble gas has a number of things in common with music since it flows without any internal friction and can penetrate even the smallest openings. It’s also volatile and can even make people fly (e.g. when filled in hot air balloons). So it’s quite appropriate to call a musical project Helium Vola (“vola” meaning “to fly!” in English).

This project centres around composer Ernst Horn, who many might know as the musical mastermind behind Deine Lakaien. With Helium Vola, this artist can indulge in his passion for historical texts and music, which contains medieval elements. “My love for old songs is chemical,” as this sensitive man from Munich explained. “I discovered them at the age of 14 and immediately felt that medieval music touches me intimately. The music’s heavy, shy and unspoiled nature fascinates me.” His 20 new compositions are therefore mainly in the Doric church mode, giving them that devout melancholy that characterized the music between the 8th and 14th centuries.

“Liod” is the project’s second album, following its debut “Helium Vola” in 2001. The name was carefully chosen since “Liod” is the Old German word for “song”, but also means “ice” in Russian. “I just liked the sound of the word,” Horn explained. His unique instrumentation is a compilation of the analogue and digital electronic sounds that he’s been collecting for decades. In order to communicate better with his musicians, he also wrote the songs as sheet music. Most of the songs are sung by Sabine Lutzenberger (Ensemble for Ancient Musik, Augsburg; Huelgas Ensemble, Belgium; Mala Punica, Italy), whose sensitive, yet powerful voice ideally suits the medieval tones. Gerlinde Sämann (solos in “Engel” [“Angel”] and “In lichter Farbe…” [“The wood stands…”]), Susann Weiland (solo in “Bitte um Trost” [“Plea for comfort”]), Andreas Hirtreiter (solo in “Veni veni”), Joel Frederiksen (solo in “Vagantenbeichte” [Vagary’s confession”]), Tobias Schlierff (voice), Riccardo Delfino (harps and hurdy-gurdy), Jost Hecker (cello) and Eva Horn as the speaker in “Gegen den Teufel” [“Against the Devil”] complete the ensemble.

With a few exceptions, the songs are dominated by a serious, contemplative mood. Two underlying motifs are almost omnipresent, namely the melody of “La Fille” and the theme of “Omnis Mundi Creatura”, a piece from the first Helium Vola album that runs through the album like a thread. “These two themes constantly reappear and are placed against each other in the songs,” Horn explains. When asked about the demanding content of his pieces, he replies: “I don’t write music for the “Love Parade”. I write for a different kind of audience.”

The artist’s hunger for knowledge also extends to collecting old texts. He used numerous Latin texts from the “Carmina Burana”, an anthology of medieval song texts, for the “Liod” album. This is added to old provincial texts, old Portuguese and two modern texts, “Dormi”, written by Horn himself, and “La Fille” by Michel Houellebecq, declared by Horn as one of his favorite authors. All texts (and their translations) are included in the CD booklet.

“There’s an unusually large amount of women’s songs this time,” he says in retrospect. A medieval woman’s view of love and death, the most important human themes, forms the core of “Liod”. “The central piece is the “Woman’s Lament”. In it, a woman recounts how she is pregnant with an illegitimate child and is therefore maltreated by the people around her. It’s a terrible fate.” The album begins with a child breathing with difficulty and coughing. The theme of this clearly sick child reappears several times throughout the album. Despite the incursions of death, winter and sleep in the songs of “Liod”, the child survives. Fortunately, every winter is followed by spring, and the record concludes with the joyful “In lichter Farbe steht der Wald” [“The wood stands in shining light”], a dance for the end of the cold and disease.

Ernst Horn’s first instrument as a child was a piano. He later studied piano and, for a few semesters, percussion in Freiburg, Hamburg and Munich. For five years, he worked as a Musical Director in Karlsruhe, conducting operettas and operas. In 1982, he put down his baton and quit. “It just wasn’t for me. I had bought a synthesizer and wanted to make electronic music. If I really think about it, that was a good decision,” Horn concludes. The impressive “Liod” confirms his move to drop out of the established cultural business and set off on new paths. Horn’s decision against convention and in favour of innovation has given the world some important new pieces, of which “Liod” is an impressive example.